HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Jason Aldean and Lady Antebellum easily connected with the crowd during the latest stop of CMT on Tour on Thursday night (Oct. 23) in Huntsville, Ala. Both artists are relatively new on the scene, with just three albums between them, but their live shows are already free-flowing and fun to watch.
I've seen Aldean perform several times over the last few years (including as the opening act on the 2006 edition of CMT on Tour), and I noticed that his twang is shining through more now. He offered up some of his biggest hits -- "Amarillo Sky" and "Why" -- early in the set, then brought his distinctive drawl to Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down." I was surprised to hear him wailing away on the "Heyyyy-eeey-aaahhh," showing off a powerful set of pipes you wouldn't expect if you only knew his up-tempo hits.
Of course, Aldean still has his rock moments, too. Ironically, "Johnny Cash" is probably the most aggressive number in his set. Since he's the headliner, he was also able to indulge in satisfying album cuts like "Who's Kissing You Tonight," "No" and "Grown Woman." (Miranda Lambert sings with him on the recording on his Relentless album.) While introducing "Laugh Until We Cried," he encouraged all graduating high school and college seniors to go down to Panama City, Fla., and get drunk -- and to drink one for him, too. And as many times as he's sung "Hicktown" by now, he still puts some enthusiasm into the delivery, and the crowd responded in kind.
Lady Antebellum has proven to be a winning combination, with fresh faces, memorable melodies and distinctive personality in their voices. Charles Kelley is soulful, Hillary Scott is sweet and Dave Haywood meets them in the middle. Naturally, they saved their biggest hits -- "Love Don't Live Here" and "Lookin' for a Good Time" -- until the end of their set, but that was just the icing on the cake. They opened with "We Run," with each member of the trio taking a turn in the spotlight, making it clear that it's a real band and not just a good singer with two other people looking pretty in the background. They were brought to the stage by their friend, former American Idol finalist Diana DeGarmo.
Aldean and Lady A faced some stiff competition in Alabama, however, because the Auburn/West Virginia football game was on that night. Before every band, the local radio personalities would come out and tell people the score, with fans screaming and booing accordingly.
Fans who came early to the Von Braun Center were treated to two new artists, Eric Durrance and the Carter Twins. Durrance brings a crowd-pleasing approach with music that appeals directly toward mainstream country audiences. The Carter Twins, 18-year-old brothers, relied on family harmony and acoustic arrangements to get their musical message across.
View photos from the CMT on Tour concert.