You never know what you’re going to get when you go out to see a concert. This uncertainty can be a good thing that brings about magical surprises or something that can leave a sour taste in your mouth.

I’ve been to more concerts than I can honestly remember. Some have left me with memories that I’m sure will never fade, while others have been so bland and monotonous that I have to be reminded of my attendance.

I’ve seen bands in small clubs that get the crowd so involved in the music that they actually become an instrument in their own right. This is much harder to do in a large arena or amphitheatre where the attendance is in the tens of thousands, but it can be done.

On Saturday, June 9th, I got the chance to walk into — along with over seventeen-thousand others — the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Charlotte, NC and see some amazing, eclectic performances.

Opening up, and setting the tone for the evening with a strong performance, was Thompson Square. I’ll admit that I knew little about this band going into the concert, but their performance piqued my interests and they’re definitely a group that I’ll be looking forward to hearing more from in the future.

The next part of the concert was two of the top-selling country artists in the world today — Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum. Rucker is currently working on his third country album and Lady A are on tour promoting their latest album, Own the Night, which made the top albums of 2011 list.

Darius Rucker

Darius Rucker in front of the bright lights

When I stated that the show was eclectic, I was not joking. Darius Rucker is a seasoned vet of the music industry and he comes out and proves it as soon as he hits the stage. As you can imagine, Rucker played the singles from his latest album, Charleston, SC 1966, and from his chart-topping, breakthrough country album, Learn to Live. 

Of course he’s going to play his hits, but a question I had was “are we going to get to hear some Hootie too?” The answer is yes, indeed we did get to hear some songs from his Hootie and the Blowfish days. With a full country ensemble, the old rock songs sound a little different, but in a way that makes you appreciate the diversity of the artist and the greatness of classic songs.

The real oddity came from Rucker’s last song of the night, a song that I can honestly say I’ve never heard performed by a country artist, and with this immaculate precision — Purple Rain. Prince’s classic from the early 80′s was performed as the final piece to an already amazing set for Rucker.

Darius Rucker

Darius Rucker sings with a smile as the sun shines down on him

The generational gap between Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum is an obvious fact and each artist has a different way of stirring up the crowd.

For Lady Antebellum, the lights dim, the giant screens illuminate and the “Lady A Dance Party” begins.

What is the Lady A Dance Party you ask? It’s a creative way to get the crowd pumped up by playing an array of dance songs that you wouldn’t normally associate with a country concert. The camera pans the crowd as it spotlights people and projects them dancing on the big screens. This is way more fun that it sounds right now and the crowd certainly loved it too.

As soon as everyone is pumped up, an artsy cinematic montage begins to unfold on the screens, introducing each member of Lady Antebellum by showing their “pregame” warm-up. Then, the lights dim, the band emerges and the crowd goes wild.

Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum

Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott burst onto the stage

Many times when a group is known for dynamic vocals, they will take the stage and let down the fans by seemingly going through the motions, singing each song like they’re just trying to collect a paycheck. This is not what happens at a Lady A show.

Passion can be felt in every note sang. Scott projects chillingly powerful vocals, while Kelley’s pristine melody converges to create some amazing harmonization that adds another dimension to songs that are already otherwise riveting.

In a world where many things get taken for granted, it’s nice to see Hillary Scott personally thank the fans and then pull a nine-year-old girl on stage to sing with the group. It’s also nice to see the band put their instruments down, come to the front of the stage and play an acoustic version of a fan favorite — American Honey.

Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum

Hillary Scott beckons the crowd to sing along

Not only did the band pile onto the front of the stage, but so did Thompson Square and Darius Rucker. Three groups all squished at the front of a stage, performing together, covering the Doobie Brothers classic Black Water. And just when you think all the tricks up their sleeves had been pulled, Darius Rucker and Lady A performed Let Her Cry.

I am somewhat amazed at the diversity that each of these artists has. They were able to play songs that wouldn’t normally fit into their genre and perform them well. The crowd fully embraced the country-laden version of Sweet Emotion that Lady Antebellum pulled off without a hitch.

Lady Antebellum

Lady Antebellum deliver an fun-packed performance

At the end of the night, Lady A performed Need You Now, but did it a little differently. Dave Haywood played solo to start and then Hillary Scott sang a haunting version of their hit single before the rest of the band joined in to bring a great performance to a perfect finish.

If you enjoy live music and are looking for a concert that will deliver a good time, then the Lady Antebellum Tour that’s sweeping the nation right now is going to be hard to beat.

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