Lady Antebellum Surprise Fans in Nashville

Luke Bryan and Sara Evans Join Trio for Hometown Show

Lady Antebellum treated fans to a star-studded evening Wednesday night (Feb. 22) at the Nashville stop of their Own the Night 2012 World Tour.

Along with opening acts Thompson Square and Darius Rucker, the trio brought out Luke Bryan and Sara Evans to the delight of the sold-out crowd at Municipal Auditorium.

Thompson Square started things with a five-song set that featured the duo’s Grammy-nominated hit, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” complete with some huge inflatable lips and a heart-warming smooch in the middle of the song.

After that, Rucker filled the middle slot of the bill with tunes from his two country albums, Learn to Live and Charleston SC, 1966, along with a few Hootie & the Blowfish hits that still hold water and covers of Hank Williams Jr. and Prince.

Then came the main event.

Rising from the center of the stage amid flashing lights and three giant video screens, Lady A and their band jumped straight into their headlining, belting out “We Owned the Night” and “Stars Tonight” before addressing their hometown crowd.

“It feels so good to be home!” shouted Charles Kelley as the tall, lean singer prowled a catwalk that extended halfway out into the audience.

He asked fans to “light up this place like a disco ball” for their latest hit, the nostalgic “Dancing Away With My Heart,” and indeed, hundreds of cell phones popped up looking like huge, lethargic fireflies.

The group seemed especially energized, possibly because the show coincides with Country Radio Seminar week, an event that brings radio DJ’s and programmers from across the country to town. Having already proven themselves as artists, though, Lady A looked to be having a ball as they moved around their multi-level stage — one that included an “inner circle” for lucky fans in the center of the stage.

Dave Haywood took his turn in the spotlight for “Love Don’t Live Here,” which he said was “the first song we ever played in Nashville.” As a piano rose from the stage just as the band had earlier, he deftly stood on top of it while finishing the song out in a soaring guitar solo.

Not to be outdone, Hillary Scott moved the entire band to the small stage at the end of their catwalk for her signature vocal on “American Honey” and brought a young girl onstage who adorably sang every word to the track’s chorus.

After that high point, the husband-and-wife duo of Thompson Square returned to the stage to sing a bit of the Allman Brothers Band’s classic “Midnight Rider” and were followed shortly afterwards by Rucker, who led the entire group in a funky singalong of the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water.”

Actually, nearly every song of the evening became a singalong as Lady A continually asked for help on their many hits.

The crowd was happy to oblige, especially on “I Run to You” and “Just a Kiss,” but they reached a fever pitch when the guest stars started arriving.

Saying they got a request for “Do I,” a song Kelley and Haywood co-wrote with Bryan, Lady A got the crowd swaying while Bryan hid in the shadows of the stage. He emerged for the second verse and the audience instantly went from zero to 60 with women screaming and snapping pictures while the menfolk high-fived and raised their drinks in appreciation.

Bryan took a bow and tried to leave the stage, but Kelley begged him to do a little of “Country Girl (Shake It for Me).” It was an off-the-cuff performance, but it came off well as Bryan shimmied his way off the catwalk.

“We surprised you once,” Scott said. “Why not do it again?”

Another round of squeals and high-fives greeted Evans as she and Scott took turns on “A Little Bit Stronger,” the No. 1 song Scott co-wrote with Luke Laird and Hillary Lindsey.

The unexpected arrivals certainly gave fans their money’s worth, and the night came to a fitting end with “Lookin’ for a Good Time” and a crystal-clear rendition of the smash “Need You Now.”

Smiles and homemade signs professing love for Lady A were all that could be seen as the show’s last notes rang out.

Writer/producer for and CMT Edge. He's been to Georgia on a fast train. He wasn't born no yesterday.