To paraphrase Donny and Marie Osmond, Lady Antebellum are a little bit country and a teeny, tiny bit rock and roll — but the vast majority of the trio’s DNA is made up of the sort of sweet, vanilla-scented pop that’s at once timeless and immediate. There’s nothing remotely innovative in their formula, but as the enthusiasm of the aud at this nearly packed perf proved, some blueprints need no rewriting.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the performance was its lack of bombast. Yes, the trio has its stage chops down pat, but opted to lead with its real strength — the close-knit three-part harmonies that have powered its singles to the upper reaches of both the country and pop charts.
Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood took a chance by front-loading the 90-minute set with stripped, acoustic renditions of two of those hits — “American Honey” and “I Run to You” — before even bringing their backing band to the stage. If not for the strength of both their vocals and their seemingly effortless rapport, things could’ve stalled early on, but the infusion of volume (notably from the prominently miked rhythm section) kept the proceedings in high gear.
Trio has grown considerably as a live act in the past year or so. As openers, the group seemed hard-pressed to stretch one album’s worth of material into a 45-minute set, but with the currently-charting “Need You Now” under its belt, the band doubled that with relative ease, and have a hot-ticket, arena-centered tour to show for it.
Set is still padded with a smattering of covers — Scott’s admittedly sharp take on Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and a dissonantly corny version of John Mellencamp’s “R.O.C.K in the U.S.A.” — that came off as superfluous. But when the members, all polished writers in their own right, tackled their own material, the focus grew much sharper, and the aura all the more bright.
Lady Antebellum will play the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on Oct. 30.