Little Big Town makes memories in the Bradley Center's final country show
"It's the last country show in this building," members of Little Big Town noted to the crowd after throwing down seven songs in rapid succession. "We gotta make it memorable, right? We gotta make some memories in the building, right?"
Memories. The last country show at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. History could be made.
And if the goal was to tear the roof off and make everyone there remember this night forever, Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves and Midland did just that. Top to bottom, Little Big Town's set on Friday night can be described in one word: incredible
But to describe it in one word is to completely sell the band, its set and its two openers, Midland and Kacey Musgraves, way too short. Little Big Town effortlessly ripped out hit after hit, but on reflection, their concert was also carefully crafted to take the audience on an amazing and emotional journey, ending on the highest of highs. It was visceral and genius.
To start, about midway to the back of the Bradley Center, Little Big Town had a second stage. A rotating, round stage, maybe fifteen feet in diameter. Not only was it a brilliant way to mix up the show with a different feel and interact with a different part of the audience, but it gave Little Big Town and Musgraves an opportunity to strip down some songs, making the huge BMO Harris Bradley Center feel incredibly intimate. And as Little Big Town said, "The cheap seats aren't the cheap seats anymore." Everyone had an opportunity to get closer to the artists – a really cool move.
Midland, relatively new to Nashville, opened the concert on the second stage, laying down an absolutely killer seven-song set. The band's sound is a throwback to Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn of the '90s, filled with energetic, more traditional country rock. And yet, somehow they still manage to roll together the energy of a "Chattahoochee" sound with the mellow feel of "Neon Moon" for new kind of country filled with intensity and energy, but still laid-back.
Midland brought out "Burn Out," their new single. If you haven't heard it, download it. It's signature for this new kind of sound they've got going. They also did a crazy medley of "The Gator Boys," "Jack & Diane" and "Dust on the Bottle" before closing to massive cheers with its biggest hit, "Drinkin' Problem." Seven songs went by wayyyy too fast.
The band, though new, is no stranger to hit singles. They've been nominated for two Grammys and were named New Vocal Duo of the Year by the Academy of Country Music Awards this year. Watch for these guys.
Next up was the incomparable Kacey Musgraves. This woman. How can you not love her? Though she's been on tour almost constantly since dropping "Pageant Material" in 2015 and she released a holiday album in 2016, she's gone kind of quiet in terms of straight country music since then. Turns out her new music, given a full showcase on Friday, was very much worth the wait.
Her newest album, "Golden Hour," hit last week climbing to Number 1 on the UK Country charts. Nashville's greatest gem and biggest secret is scoring big overseas. Sometimes you just have to wonder about Nashville, right?
Filled with sass, Musgraves calls it like she sees it with a voice so beautiful and sweet that sometimes you can be lulled into missing the import of the lyrics. That certainly wasn't the case in her opening song, "Slow Burn," from her new album. Musgraves quietly but firmly declares she's going to do it her way and on her terms. It's a less in-your-face version of "Good Ol' Boys Club," but no less true to herself.
After that, Musgraves mixed up old and new, rolling from "Stupid" to "Follow Your Arrow" and "Butterflies." Before a sweet and heart piercing version of "Merry Go 'Round," she asked if there were any "small towners" out there. Pretty much the entire Bradley Center cheered, and she shot back, "Alright. Cool. So literally everyone here is a small towner."
It's not easy to hold an audience through unfamiliar new songs, but she did. Stand outs from "Golden Hour" include, well, all of them. Seriously. "Butterflies," inspired by meeting her husband, is a perfectly swooning first dance song, while "Velvet Elvis" is a disco country song that will stick in your head for days and keep you dancing the whole time. "Space Cowboy" will break your heart with its way too real assessment of a guy who needs space, and "High Horse," well, everyone definitely knows someone like this. Download this one, you won't regret it. Actually, download them all.
Musgraves usually brings with her a couple of songs that she hasn't recorded. Friday was no exception. Without a doubt, her version of Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart," which she co-wrote with Brandy Clark, is the best out there, skewing to heavier rock and resulting in a dark, sultry and dangerous rendition. She also dropped a super trippy, almost disco rendition of Brooks & Dunn's "Neon Moon." I so wish she'd record that.
Eleven songs from Musgraves wasn't enough. I wanted to hear her do the whole of "Golden Hour" live. Hopefully, she'll be back headlining in Milwaukee soon. It's been too long.
The pace of Friday's nights show was quick, with very little turn-around between each act. So nearly right on the heels of Musgraves walking off stage, Little Big Town hit it – and hit it hard. Immediately the audience was pulled into Little Big Town's certified multi-platinum, multi-Grammy, CMA and ACM-winning world.
They opened with a beautiful, densely harmonized rendition of Elton John's hit "Rocket Man." From the start, Little Big Town's staging was superb; the lights were right on the emotion of every song, from gentle to trippy to head-banging, while the angled screens behind the band automatically drew you in.
After laying down seven insane songs – including an unbelievable, tricked out, rocked up and amped up version of "Little White Church" that literally had people screaming, not just cheering – Little Big Town hit the second smaller stage in the middle of the Bradley Center.
They paused to thank Midland for kicking the show off on the right foot. Karen Fairchild even sang part of "Drinkin' Problem" a capella before she went on to prod the country music radio folks in the house to start playing Kacey Musgraves' "Space Cowboy." She also encouraged the audience to start calling the stations to request the song.
Little Big Town eventually slowed it down and stripped it down on the center stage, starting with a short, acoustic rendition of "Bring It On Home" followed by abbreviated but powerful versions of "Sober" and "Your Side of the Bed." Then, after pausing again, Jimi Westbrook started singing "When the Doves Cry," and the band paid tribute to a few artists who passed away in the past few years. Really moving.
After they let the heaviness settle, Little Big Town launched into "I'm with the Band" and never took their foot of the gas – not even for the slower songs.
No one is ever going to forget how unbelievably talented this band is, able to constantly switch lead singers throughout the entire night. No one is ever going to forget Karen Fairchild alone at center stage singing "Girl Crush." No one is ever going to forget an almost metal version of "Stay All Night." No one is ever going to forget the steamy, sweaty, audience-gone-wild version of "Boondocks." And no one is ever going to forget the last country concert at the Bradley Center.
Memories made. Achievement unlocked.
Little Big Town setlist
"Rocket Man" (Elton John cover)
"Front Porch Thing"
"When Someone Stops Loving You"
"Little White Church"
"Bring It on Home"
"Your Side of the Bed"
"When Doves Cry"/ "Lord I Hope This Day Is Good"/ "I Believe in You" (tribute medley Prince and Don Williams covers)
"Wichita Lineman" (Glen Campbell cover)
"I'm with the Band"/ "With a Little Help from My Friends" (Little Big Town medley with Beatles cover)
"Save Your Sin"
"Can't Go Back"
"Stay All Night"
Kacey Musgraves setlist
"Follow Your Arrow"
"Keep It to Yourself"
"Mama's Broken Heart" (Miranda Lambert cover, co-written by Kacey Musgraves)
"Merry Go 'Round"
"Neon Moon" (Brooks & Dunn cover)
"Check Cashin' Country"
"This Old Heart"
"Make a Little"
"More Than a Fever"
"The Gator Boys"/"Jack & Diane"/"Dust on the Bottle" (John Cougar, David Lee Murphy covers)
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