Concert review: Little Big Town, April 19 at the AMP

April 22nd, 2013 at 9:45 am

Kimberly Schlapman, left, and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town perform at the Arkansas Music Pavilion. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Kimberly Schlapman, left, and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town perform at the Arkansas Music Pavilion. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

I don’t suppose I expected Little Big Town to cover Lady Gaga (although a spin through YouTube proves they have many times before). I don’t suppose I expected them to cover John Mayer, either. But they did both on Friday (April 19) evening during their show at the Arkansas Music Pavilion, and did so admirably (but perhaps not better than the original versions).

The award winning (including a recent ACM nod for Vocal Group of the Year) country quartet did quite a bit of what was expected of them, actually. They played a handful of their biggest radio hits, and they have plenty of them — “Little White Church,” “Boondocks,” and “Tornado,” a song that shares its name with the tour that brought them to Arkansas on an unseasonably cool night.

Ironically, one of their biggest radio hits, “Pontoon,” is among the worst examples of drunk-somewhere-and-feeling-kinda-rowdy country radio dreck. This particular example places them on a boat, and it’s a cloying attempt for radio airplay, made worse as an ill-fitting attempt from a group of forty somethings. That song removed, Little Big Town, which includes Arkansas native Philip Sweet among its four vocalists, played a pleasing but never rapturous night of music.

It took the group, backed live by a full band containing instruments such as banjo, guitar and bass, several songs before they offered anything with teeth, which also meant I enjoyed the second half of the night much more than I did its first, despite temperatures falling into the low 40s as the night progressed.

Jimi Westbrook, left, and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town.

Jimi Westbrook, left, and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town.

At about the halfway mark, the band started a sequence of songs that included “Bones,” “Your Side of the Bed” and a cover of Fleetwood Mac‘s “The Chain.” I should have expected that tune — with a focus on vocal harmonies, songs of heartbreaks past or in progress and traded lead vocals, Little Big Town owes as much to that classic rock act as it does any particular country group. Little Big Town continued with a series of like-minded songs, and the crowd of about 3,000 or so responded well. There were several who danced the entire night near my vantage point on the venue’s lawn.

Philip Sweet of Little Big Town

Philip Sweet of Little Big Town

The crowd needed some escapism, perhaps, as the concert happened under the national news backdrop of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. The second of two suspects was apprehended just about 80 minutes before Little Big Town took the stage.

They made no mention of the event — and they may not have known what happened just yet.

The band, especially in the latter half of their show, simply spun up some hit songs for this stop on the Tornado tour. And in some cases, that’s all that needed.

Setlist: 1) Pavement Ends; 2) Little White Church; 3) [Unknown song]; 4) Bring It On Home; 5) Sober; 6) Front Porch Thing; 7) Bones; 8) Your Side of the Bed; 9) Leavin’ In Your Eyes; 10) The Chain [Fleetwood Mac cover]; 11) Can’t Go Back; 12) Born and Raised [John Mayer cover]; 13) Born This Way [Lady Gaga cover]; 14) I’m With The Band; 15) A Little More You; 16) Good As Gone; 17) Self Made; 18) Pontoon

Encore: 19) Tornado; 20) Boondocks