Live Review: Lady Antebellum, Tim Hart

8 October 2012 | 4:32 pm | Liz Giuffre

From Scissor Sisters to Germaine Greer, the Opera House Concert Hall had seen and heard a lot in a week. Tonight was another gear change to big American contemporary country pop outfit Lady Antebellum. The band began by getting the devoted crowd up and out of their seats and, although there was more room to observe rather than participate later, it got the devoted in exactly the right place. The large light show was impressive and the tightly layered five-piece backing band made sure the commercial country outfit sounded as shiny as their recordings.

By second song Stars Tonight, a more traditional Opera House concert mode was established and Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott relaxed back from big stadium mode to the still impressive, but decidedly non-arena space of tonight's gig. A devoted few fans remained standing throughout and most striking were the diverse audience in attendance (with nanna and granddaughter sitting behind and in front of us). Traditional pop-country was the flavour with upbeat songs Our Kind Of Love and Perfect Day, while the slower guitar-based Dancin' Away With My Heart and Love Don't Live Here gave country a slight swing.

Last in town as supports for Keith Urban, the band were clearly chuffed to be playing to such strong crowds in the harbour venue, with Haywood joking that he had an urge to draw out the Nashville side of the event and “Redneck-ify” the room, dropping into a southern drawl and calling it the Sydney 'Opree' House. They then sent the band backstage for a mid-set scale back, allowing Kelley to bring out his trademark red piano, letting Scott get her chops around her favourite song, Bonnie Raitt's I Can't Make You Love Me and a sweet three part harmony all in with When You Got A Good Thing. As the band came back they then invited a singalong, a strange reggae inspired interlude that began with Bob Marley's One Love, but then morphed into bits of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream, Travie McCoy's Billionaire and Brooks & Dunn's Put A Girl In It, concluding with Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire to return to some proper country roots.

Returning for a brief encore with massive hit Need You Now, Lady Antebellum's big lights, big hits and shiny presentation was in stark contrast to the lo-fi and intimate support by local Boy & Bear-er, Tim Hart. Chatting happily between songs and relying on simple structures delivered in fine voice with a folk bent, if Hart was chosen to show Australian commercial country (maybe?), it was at least proof that we do things differently here.

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