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Concert Reviews:
Lady Antebellum tops top-rate package at DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- You can always tell who the true Big Dogs are in country music by the opening acts they take on tour.

The true superstars -- like Lady Antebellum on Friday night, June 19, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre -- aren't afraid to put other acts on their bill who are a) hot and b) might give them a run for their money. The Nashville trio, after all, benefited from being taken out by Tim McGraw and others, and on this summer's Wheels Up 2015 tour Lady A is paying it forward with the likes of Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt.

New hottie Hunt, in fact, had the lion's share of the sold-out crowd in their seats or lawn space at DTE despite an early (7 p.m.) start for his half-hour set, and each song was greeted with One Direction-level screaming. It was much the same for Hayes, who headlined The Palace during November, but dispersed over a 65-minute set whose energy flagged a bit in the middle, there wasn't the same sense of mania.

Nevertheless, that kind of tandem could well have derailed the headliner -- but not Lady A.

From the time the group hit the stage with "Long Stretch of Love," the latest single from 2014's "747" album, it showed a command and polish that, to paraphrase one of its hits, insured Lady A owned the night. Smooth and highly personable, with Charles Kelley regularly stepping into the general admission pit in front of the stage, the trio made its case with a sharp light and video show, plenty of hits and quite a few special moments.

Among the latter were Hayes joining Lady A for "Compass" (Kelley joined Hayes during his set for "This Is Where It All Begins," a brand new song they wrote together) and a foray up the aisle to a second stage in the middle of the pavilion, where it performed acoustic renditions of "One Great Mystery," a version of Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" and "Dancin' Away With My Heart." Back on the main stage, "Downtown" segued into a Hilary Scott-sung cover of Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine," which Hayes joined towards the end. Then Hunt came out for a full-cast romp through Aerosmith's "Walk This Way."

The show could well have ended right there, but Lady A showed it still had a little in the tank to hold the crowd's attention with an encore that included "747's" dramatic title cut and the chart-topping hits "Need You Now" and "We Owned the Night." It was a gentle cap to as potent a package as you'll find on the road in any genre, but there was no question which of the three was the Big Dog on Friday.

Before the show, meanwhile, Lady A and its tour sponsor, Detroit's Quicken Loans, played host to Rick and Rhonda Gustafson of Banks, Ore., one of the seven winners of a contest that's paying one year's mortgage for seven winners over the course of the tour. The couple used the trip as part of their 50th anniversary celebration.



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