NEW YORK CITY — To mark Tuesday’s (Sept. 30) release of their fifth album, 747, Lady Antebellum took a counterintuitive turn. Instead of going big, they scaled the celebration down to a surprising degree by introducing their latest music with an intimate show at New York City’s 500-capacity Gramercy Theatre.
Though Lady A have become accustomed to commanding arenas, they took full advantage of the opportunities that playing a smaller venue allowed them, making the evening feel like a real party rather than just a promotional exercise even though the show was part of Yahoo and Live Nation’s new live-streaming series.
But there was no pageantry in evidence as Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and their five-man backing band took the relatively cozy Gramercy stage and, without a word of introduction, launched straight into “Long Stretch of Love,” the pulsing rocker that leads off 747. They’d go on to play six more tunes from the album, including “Bartender,” which had already become a gold single in advance of album release.
After the clap-along 2013 tune “Compass” and the hit power ballad “Just a Kiss” from 2011’s Own the Night, Lady Antebellum tackled another new one, the slinky, poppy “Sounded Good at the Time.” By way of introduction, Kelley revealed his admiration for new mom Scott co-writing the tune while nursing her newborn, with Scott adding enthusiastically, “Here’s to breast pumps!”
For a quick reminder of the band’s beginnings, they churned out a rocking version of their very first single, “Love Don’t Live Here.” Haywood got so carried away with his guitar solo at the end of the song, he knocked over a stage monitor, remarking afterwards, “It’s like I’m in the Who or something!”
The trio then shifted gears for another new song, the soulful love ballad “One Great Mystery,” before talking up their “7For7” campaign that accompanies 747’s release, a contest in which the group picks seven different winners to surprise by fulfilling a wish for them, in seven cities over the course of seven days. They gave a shout-out to the latest winner and performed their 2008 No. 1 hit, “I Run to You,” as Kelley hopped into the audience to lead a sing-along.
That statement was quickly borne out after the song ended. After admitting he’d messed up the lyrics, Kelley responded to a shout of “Play it again!” from the audience by spontaneously deciding to do just that, declaring, “There ain’t no rules tonight,” and humbly adding, “That song deserves not to have the lyrics messed up.” Judging from the way the crowd ate it up, even though the song’s not currently slated as a single, the group might have another hit on their hands.
“That was a first,” Kelley shouted afterwards. “We’ve never done a song twice in our lives.”
During the song that is expected to be the next single, “Freestyle,” the anything-goes atmosphere was amped up even further. In the middle of the greasy Southern rock-tinged tune with tongue-twisting lyrics, a fan wearing a cowboy hat and a Lady Antebellum T-shirt suddenly leaped onto the stage and began doing a crazy-legged dance, much to the amusement of the group. Unfortunately, he was shuffled off by security before he had a chance to take a bow.
The set closed with a perfect one-two punch of the bouncy rocker “Downtown” (the platinum single from the Golden album) and the anthemic 2011 hit “We Owned the Night.” When the trio returned moments later for an encore, sans backing band, spontaneity still ruled. Kelley informed the crowd that they had been all set to bring out the whole band for the next song before Haywood “threw a wrench” into things by insisting that they should perform their signature song, “Need You Now,” with just vocals and acoustic guitar.
The backing band did return for the final tune of the night, as Lady Antebellum soared through the widescreen title track of the new album and Kelley announced the trio’s intention for the whole record to take off in a manner befitting its airborne namesake.