Sunday 22 October 2017

country

olympia, dublin

Like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain before them, Lady Antebellum stretch the definition of 'country' music to absurd lengths.

With their big teeth, sparkly eyes and turbo-charged choruses the Nashville trio grab the songwriting conventions of the American heartland by the scruff and ruthlessly refashion them for the X-Factor generation.

In the US, Lady Antebellum are fully minted stars, selling millions of albums, sweeping the Grammys and holding heaving arenas spellbound.

On this side of the Atlantic, they remain an acquired taste -- though, as is traditional in the country realm, Ireland seems to be the first European nation to rally to their side. Where our sophisticated Continental peers hold their noses, we've donned our figurative straw Stetsons and joined the line dance.

They are certainly amongst their own on the second of two sell-out Dublin dates. A whooping, up-for-anything audience laps up the hyper-chirpy drive-time rock, super-saturated with group-hug lyrics, crammed with guitar solos and loaded with hooks that go off like fireworks placed just that little too close for comfort.

It is left to the few agnostics in the room to conclude that, even if they make an entirely wholesome racket, it's all a bit relentless and one- dimensional.

That's not to say that they know their way around a tune. While the chart- topping 'We Owned The Night' may be the most bloodless paean to the joys of a one-night stand ever, the melody rumbles over you like an 18-wheeler with dodgy brakes.

'Our Kind Of Love' is a Dixie Chicks-style self-empowerment romp that beats you into submission with its celebratory refrain. It's the sort of tune you want yammering in the background when you're dancing on a bar, downing shots with your girlfriends.

As is the convention among Nashville bands, they also have a repository of hair-dryer ballads. Channelling Robin Hood-era Bryan Adams, 'Hello World' could have been custom-crafted for the end credits for a Matthew McConaughey rom-com; 'American Honey' is what The Script would sound like if they were told to channel their inner Johnny Cash.

Toothsome and charming, Lady Antebellum are very good at what they do.

But it's hard to stomach so much steam-roller sentimentality in a single helping. When even your 'sad' tracks are shot through with a rictus-like perkiness, something's not right.

ed power

Irish Independent

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