No matter how often I see true German country music fans, they are always a curiosity for me. Cowboy hats and ropers - boots worn for roping cattle - were out in force at Tollwood on Saturday evening 21st of July, and the people wearing them were anything but disappointed.
Lady Antebellum is a country pop band from Nashville, Tennessee, comprised of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood. They put on an exciting, albeit rather short, performance on the last Saturday night of Tollwood, which is the summer festival that takes place annually in the Olympiapark - Olympic Park.
This was anything but classic, twangy country music I soon realised, as the eight-piece band launched into their opening number "We Owned the Night". Despite the crisp harmonies, the beginning of the show could easily be confused with a pop rock band. The band seemed to feed off of the adrenaline of the crowd as they pounded out "Our Kind of Love".
It turned out that these driving numbers were to come to a screeching and well-placed halt, with a string of three ballads in succession. From their new album, they played "Love This Pain", which I would confidently call a power ballad. Before the emotional peak of the song, one of the singers encouraged everyone in the tent to hold up their mobile phones, lighting up the area with an electric glow. Clearly no one had given the band a translation of the warnings that had been announced before the show, in which the fans were instructed to turn off their phones.
Next something happened that I doubt you would ever hear at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. In the middle of this ballad, the singer launched into The Police's "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic". It was inventive and tasteful, and quite honestly one of the nicest moments of their performance. Then Lady Antebellum played a few more ballads, and I was beginning to wonder if they were trying to lull us to sleep.
How wrong I was. Next they exploded into their first big American hit "Love Don't Live here", followed by another tune that they wrote in their early days called "Just a Kiss". One of the few songs, "Hello World", they performed that was not theirs was up next and it was at this point I realised I preferred Ms. Scott's voice when she was singing harmony. The only complaint I had was that while Mr. Haywood was featured playing guitar, mandolin and piano, his mike was set too low and it was difficult to hear his part as a vocalist.
The three featured performers were given a chance to shine, when the backing band left the stage. This acoustic break was another highpoint of the evening for me, and then the band led the audience in a sing-a-long of "Singing Me Home". Soon enough, they were belting out their hit "American Honey", whose lyrics I tried desperately not to interpret too seriously.
The obvious vocal powerhouse of the ensemble was Mr. Kelley. He not only showed off his excellent voice, but he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. He led their passionate fans in singing along with the melodic hooks, as well as his bantering between the songs. The weakness of some of their songs was easily made up for by the band's energetic performance.
Lady Antebellum appeared to be ending the show with one of their biggest hits "I Run to You", and they wished Germany a good night. After a few moments of anticipation, there was a flourish of what sounded like progressive rock and the blackened stage was bathed in blue spotlights. At that moment, they surged into their mega-hit "Need You Now" which has been played extensively on German radio stations. The already ecstatic public was exceedingly pleased that they got to go home with this tune still ringing in their ears.