I am probably not overstating things to assert that Country music has never enjoyed much of a place in my heart. This may be in no small way due to the fact that growing up in Scotland’s central belt in the sixties and seventies, Country Music meant Sidney Devine – a shiny-faced figure of fun who succeeded in carving out an impressively lengthy career up here aping Nashville’s finest.
I first encountered the real thing I suppose with Glen Campbell, in the days of those rarely-missed Eight Track players. Ostensibly created for cars as an alternative to those fiddly little cassette things, I recall my Dad being given one and building a little box for it and sitting it atop the sideboard in our house as an adjunct to our home music system – such as it was. He and Mum later went out and picked up a whole box load of music cartridges somewhere for a song – this clearly in the dying days of the format, where retailers were looking to offload the things PDQ.
One of the albums they came back with was Glen Campbell’s Twenty Golden Greats which, although I initially approached with some suspicion, I gradually grew to love – a passion which still lingers to this day. Particularly those songs (Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Where’s The Playground Susie, Galveston) written by Jimmy Webb. Hearing any of these recordings even now can effortlessly transport me back to lazy mid-1970s Sunday afternoons, to a period before any adult responsibilities had been foisted upon me. Halcyon Days, indeed.
The Eighties brought Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue and Ricky Skaggs’ Country Boy, but even these recordings did little more than scratch the surface of my musical consciousness.
But, always one keen to attempt to expand my musical horizons, when I noted a selection of three country acts from across the pond were touring Europe packaged as the C2C: Country to Country Tour, I thought a trip into relatively uncharted territory for myself may be worthwhile.
The trio were Lady Antebellum, Kip Moore and Brandy Clark.
Due to commitments elsewhere, we arrived too late to catch Clark’s set, and had only just settled into our seats when Kip Moore and his band came onstage.
I am afraid he immediately scored a black mark with this Grumpy Old Man by choosing to sport a baseball cap back-to-front. No-one under the age of eight – on pain of physical violence – should be allowed to wear a baseball cap in such a manner, in my opinion. His next act was to invite any who wished to dance down to the front of the stage, an invitation taken up a fair few dozen individuals. But then proceeded to flummox everyone by opening his set with the walking-pace Wild Ones – if you are going to invite someone to dance, I thought, at least play something they can dance to.
His set was entertaining enough I suppose, but I would have enjoyed it more if the subject matter of his songs strayed occasionally away from ladies, cars and beer.
Unfortunately the performance throughout was blighted by poor sound, as the base drum was mixed way too loud - to the point at times of distortion. Consequently it was those tunes where Moore picked up an acoustic guitar which worked best, particularly Hey, Pretty Girl. But then again, given it appears to be little more than a re-write of Bruce Springsteen's I’m On Fire, then it bloody-well should be good.
Lady Antebellum – who comprise tall, blond, All-American Boy Charles Kelley, Homecoming Queen Hillary Scott, and their darker, shorter, dare I say almost nerdy, musical prodigy mate Dave Haywood – I knew rather more about, due to the persistent ministrations of a work colleague who had been pressing upon me each of their new releases for the past few years.
They opened the show with the strong Bartender, and events swiftly settled into an effortlessly professional procession of pleasant, inoffensive, if at times formulaic, slices of country-rock.
Clearly perhaps more used to stadium-sized venues back home, they revelled in the intimacy forded by The Armadillo, with Charles wandering into the stalls whilst performing via his radio mike, and Hillary posing for endless selfies with the crowd, often mid-song.
Midway through the set the three performed a few acoustic songs, and I was inordinately delighted to hear interjected into a medley a couples of verses of Dancin' Away with My Heart – the composition an odd mix of schmaltz and nostalgia which, for me anyway, somehow works perfectly.
But after this interlude, Hillary and Charles attempted an ill-advised cover of Islands in The Stream, which unfortunately showed up the deficiencies in their respective vocal abilities. For although the pair are clearly talented chanters – seven Grammy’s do not come along by accident – they have a long way to go before they are fit to clean the rhinestone boots of Dolly and Kenny.
More going through the motions stuff followed before they closed out the main set with another of the few pearls they have at their disposal; the raucous We Owned the Night. For the problem with Lady Antebellum I feel is that although they can certainly, almost effortlessly, churn out AOR-friendly toe-tappers by the bucket-load: Long Stretch of Love, Just a Girl, Freestyle, there is a real dearth of strong material.
And as all around me folks (many of my vintage I was surprised to note), could be seen having a whale of a time, I could not help but feel Lady Antebellum’s not inconsiderable success represents a triumph of style over (not really terribly much) substance.
|Lady Antebellum - Glasgow 2015|
Long Stretch of Love
Our Kind of Love
Just a Kiss
Love Don't Live Here
Just a Girl
Lie With Me
Lookin' for a Good Time
One Great Mystery
Dancin' Away with My Heart/Wanted You More/Hello World
Islands In The Stream
I Run to You
We Owned the Night
EncoresNeed You Now
Wake Me Up