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Little Big Town hits the right harmony in Toledo show

Super group's harmonies sparkle in Huntington Center performance

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    From left, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town perform Saturday at the Huntington Center in Toledo.

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    Little Big Town members Karen Fairchild, left, and Kimberly Schlapman perform Saturday, February 17, 2018, at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo.

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    Little Big Town's Jimi Westbrook performs with this band mates Saturday, February 17, 2018, at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo.

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    Little Big Town, from left, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild, and Phillip Sweet perform Saturday, February 17, 2018, at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo.

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Little Big Town really has come full circle.

Saturday night at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo, Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman, and Phillip Sweet stood together on a cozy, intimate secondary stage, singing their music.

It was reminiscent of the days 20 years earlier when the friends would gather in Schlapman’s living room, dreaming big while honing those harmonies.

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From left, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town perform Saturday at the Huntington Center in Toledo.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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Saturday night, more than 6,000 fans happened to be listening in as they continued to live out their dreams. And make no mistake, Little Big Town has far surpassed even the simplest goals — having money to pay for gas to get to the next gig — they laid out two decades earlier. They are superstars in the country music industry.

PHOTO GALLERY: Little Big Town in Toledo

“We started out in our living room, with one guitar because that is all we could afford,” Schlapman told the Toledo crowd. “But that’s all right because we were making music.”

At 9:20 p.m., they appeared on stage to “Rocket Man,” a tribute to Elton John, with whom they shared tea in New York after winning a Grammy Award last month.

The harmonies of the longtime friends are so tight that the power is almost painful, yet it so beautiful and unique at the same time.Watching the show, it was easy to wonder why more people in country music haven’t mirrored the four-person formula of Little Big Town. But then listening to LBT, it is evident that it just isn’t that easy to find four people whose voices blend so perfectly.

Early highlights of the show included No. 1 hit “Pontoon” and top-10 hit “Little White Church.” But there was truly magic in the air when Fairchild, Westbrook, Sweet, and Schlapman made their way through the crowd to a secondary stage and stripped down their music, taking their fans back to those early days. Schlapman paid homage to those in the crowd “who have been with us from the beginning.”

On the secondary stage, the four friends played “Sober,” “Your Side of the Bed,” then honored Don Williams with a mash-up of “Lord I Hope This Day Is Good” and “I Believe in You.” Even a little of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” was thrown in. But the highlight was the haunting cover of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.” It was easy to close your eyes and pretend you were listening in as Little Big Town found its footing 20 years ago in Schlapman’s living room.

The night had a little something for everyone, including newcomers Midland, who had many wondering if they had been transported back to the 1970s, with the Texas natives’ dress. But their music also featured tight harmonies. They were able to show off with breakout hit “Drinkin’ Problem,” but also offered a glimpse at things to come with “Make a Little” and “Check Cashin’ Country.”

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Little Big Town, from left, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman, Karen Fairchild, and Phillip Sweet perform Saturday, February 17, 2018, at the Huntington Center in downtown Toledo.

The Blade/Katie Rausch
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Kacey Musgraves, though only 29 years old, has been a powerhouse songwriter in Nashville for years. She was a co-writer of Miranda Lambert’s big hit “Mama’s Broken Heart.” And she played her own big hits, “Follow Your Arrow” and “Merry Go ‘Round.” But Musgraves’ set was also a showcase of sorts for her upcoming album, Golden Hour, which is expected to be out next month. She introduced Toledo to three potential hits on Saturday night: “Wonder Woman,” “Slow Burn,” and “Space Cowboy.”

But Little Big Town already has a catalog of hits and they buzzed through them. They played 24 songs for the crowd in a little more than 90 minutes. 

Artists are hindered by curfews at their shows, so it is always tough to fit in all the music you want to play when you have two opening acts. But the result was that the performance felt somewhat impersonal. There was hardly any interaction with the crowd, other than Schlapman’s conversation on the secondary stage. Many fans probably appreciated the cramming in of all the hits. But others probably wished for more of a chance to get to know the superstars. Years ago when Blake Shelton opened his tour at the Huntington Center, he crafted a song especially for his Toledo audience. It was a special connection.

There should be no mistake, however, that Little Big Town is a truly special group. They have had many challenges over the years, most notably the death of Schlapman’s first husband, but they continue to turn out hits. It is not easy to do what they do. And nobody does it better than Little Big Town.

Contact Brian Dugger at bdugger@theblade.com or on Twitter @DuggerBlade.

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