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Lady A, Rucker overcome the elements

Key Bank Pavilion, Burgettstown, Pa., September 8, 2018

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Lady Antebellum and Darius Rucker rolled into town on the wings of a hurricane; quite literally. The outdoor amphitheater was ground zero for some of the worst early residual effects of Hurricane Florence and made their co-headlining tour title, "Summer Plays On" a cruel joke.

Referring to the miserable conditions: the high 50's temperature, the wind and torrential rain that rendered the lawn a mud pit, Lady A's Charles Kelley pronounced, "I was really worried earlier when I looked outside a few hours before the show. I asked the tour manager if anyone was going to be here. So, we're thrilled you showed up in these conditions." They kicked off with a double shot from 2017's "Heartbreak" starting with the high energy "You Look Good" and the sultry "Bartender."

From there, the band known for its mesmerizing harmonies and slow tempo ballads about love, heartache and loss proved they can rock out to ear splitting levels thanks to guitarist Jason "Slim" Gambill. His forte is classic rock, soul and R&B, and his role in the band feels like Joe Walsh in the Eagles. His ability on a range of brands from Yamaha to Carvin turns an up-tempo number like "We Owned The Night" into a blazing wildfire. Far from out of place, his style seems to fit a lot of what is going on in Nashville now.

Lady A's Dave Haywood proved himself an extremely capable multi-instrumentalist, be it on keys for the gentle "Just A Kiss" or deftly picking mandolin and Dobro on "We "Owned The Night."

Hillary Scott sang "American Honey" at the foot of the stage while holding a five-year-old's hand that was being held up on her mother's shoulders. Though likely a scripted feature in every show, Scott's beaming smile and radiant sincerity during the three minutes made the audience swoon as much as the child that was being sung to did.

Fans came to love this band because of 2008 's number 1 blockbuster "Need You Now," and ballads remain their core strength. As co-lead singers, Kelly and Scott harmonize in perfect precision, and Haywood, technically a backup singer, feels like a third lead on many numbers. With assistance from Rucker and opener Russell Dickerson, the three-song joint encore encore began be with a tip of the cap to Hootie and the Blowfish with "Hold My Hand" followed by Deana Carter's Strawberry Wine" and lastly "Love Don't Live Here."

Rucker performed only two songs from the 19th best selling album of all time, Hootie and The Blowfish's 1994 effort, "Cracked Rear View." Rucker's tenure as a country singer has resulted in 12 singles making the Billboard Hot 100. When he first began touring as a country artist, the set list was a little heavy on his former band's material. As a solo artist, he now has plenty of his own to draw from. He is still a great pop performer and sometimes it's hard to separate him from his earlier role as a front man in the 1990s.

Dickerson used his pre-opener slot for an energetic 30 minutes that included "Blue Tacoma," "Billions" and an unlikely mash up of "MGNO."

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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