Charles Kelley predicted he would be jumping out of his skin with excitement when Lady Antebellum returned to the stage after a six-month hiatus following the birth of Hillary Scott's daughter in July.
One night after opening its Take Me Downtown tour in Peoria, Ill., Kelley, Scott, and Dave Haywood stopped in Toledo for a sold-out show at the Huntington Center and it was evident from the start how much the trio missed their fans.
From the opening chords of current single “Compass,” Kelley was jumping around like a fighter shadow boxing in his black leather coat as the group appeared on an elevated platform near the back of the arena.
Making their way to the front stage, Kelley high-fived audience members and placed a protective arm around Scott as they worked their way through the crowd.
Despite making their mark with power ballads, Lady A's show was decidedly uptempo, fulfilling a promise from Kelley in a recent interview with The Blade.
“Compass” was followed by a number of uptempo songs, including “Our Kind of Love” and even a brief cover of Daft Punk's “Get Lucky.”
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The trio's excitement to be on stage was evident as Kelley continued to clown around with longtime pal Haywood, who he grew up with in Augusta, Ga.
“Being off the road for six months, we're going to leave it all on the stage tonight if that's OK with you guys,” Kelley said. “Every time we come to Ohio, you guys and girls bring it. Let's make tonight a night to remember.”
After five songs, the group finally slowed it down with one of its biggest hits, multiplatinum single “Just a Kiss.” It was a particularly poignant moment as Kelley and Scott took up spots on the wings of a second stage and locked gazes as they sang across a mass of fans between them.
It's indisputable that Lady A has amazing chemistry that has grown stronger since their self-titled debut was released in 2008. Kelley and Haywood's friendship goes back to middle school, and they spent much of the concert jumping around like little kids while Scott and her powerhouse vocal served as the grounding presence.
Kacey Musgraves, who created a buzz when she was nominated in six categories at the Country Music Association awards show in November, got the concert started and showed why she very well could be a future star in country music. The singer/songwriter with the velvety voice and steely lyrics from Mineola, Texas, breezed through nine songs in 36 minutes, ranging from traditional to reggae. Up for multiple grammy awards later this month, the 25-year-old captivated the crowd with recognized hits “Blowin' Smoke,” “Mama's Broken Heart,” and “Merry Go Round,” but trotted out potential future hits “It Is What It Is” and “Stupid.”
The one negative was that while the “Nashville Star” alum was making her sparkling debut in Toledo, the crowd had trouble seeing her until a lighting issue was resolved by the third song.
But the way that Musgraves commanded the stage was impressive. Even though the crowd may not have known the majority of her songs, it was still hard not to tap along to the catchy hooks and melodic beats.
Next up, Kip Moore, the former Hawaii resident with the raspy, Springsteen-like voice got the crowd on its feet with an 11-song, 45-minute set that included several cuts from his upcoming April album. He clearly won the crowd over with his better-known singles “Beer Money,” current single “Young Love,” “Hey Pretty Girl,” and megahit “ Somethin' Bout a Truck.”
While Musgraves served as a soothing presence with her acoustic guitar-led set, Moore brought a little more of an arena rock feel during his set. Like Musgraves, he's a performer who could find himself headlining his own arena shows one day.
But the night belonged to Lady Antebellum and their much-anticipated return to the stage. Kelley recently expressed concern that there's always that chance that people could forget you when you're gone so long.
“We've been off the road so long and it feels so good to be on this stage,” Scott said Saturday night.
By the reaction of the crowd, it was pretty obvious their fans were glad to have them back.
The one impression to take away from Lady A's 90-minute set was the enthusiasm that the set was delivered. Oftentimes an artist may hit town in the middle of a grueling string of dates, and it might be difficult to give 100 percent.
Toledo lucked out in being stop two for a group itching to return to the stage. During the “You're gonna miss me when I'm gone” chorus from the song “Cups,” which was the final song of the evening, Kelley threw back his head and basked in the wild applause from the crowd.
The unbridled joy on the faces of the three close friends was priceless.
“We're going to miss you, Toledo,” Kelley said. “We can't wait to come back.”
Contact Brian Dugger at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.