I’M WITH THE BAND
“You must be a Little Big Town Fan,” she said as I arrived at Panera Bread in Charlottesville to meet my friends before the Sugarland, Little Big Town, Jake Owen concert at John Paul Jones Arena. How did she guess? Was it because we were talking non-stop and laughing uncontrollably, so excited about being together again and headed to one of our most anticipated concerts of the season? I have a feeling we stood out among the crowd in that little café. At any rate she went on to say she was with Little Big Town and wanted to do a video interview for CMT about what it means to be “with the band,” – since their latest release, “I’m With The Band” is about that very thing.
She went to the back corner to set up, we finished our dinner and joined her. We sat around chatting casually about when we first saw Little Big Town, how we met them, and our impressions of them as individuals. “You know, when you find a group of young people as sincere and nice as Little Big Town, whose voices blend with such great harmonies, whose music is so good - you just want to support and promote them, and bring as many people as you can to their shows. That’s what it means to me to be “with the band.”” I said. The others nodded in agreement. We wrapped things up, snapped a few photos and headed off to the arena.
Being blessed with the privilege of having two “Meet and Greets,” I decided to have a little fun with my photo-op. Since it was close to the holidays I had picked up some Santa hats and reindeer antlers. My mission was to get past security with all that paraphernalia. I need not have worried. After scanning our tickets they asked what all that stuff was for and shined their flashlight down in the bag. After being satisfied there was no threatening item in the bottom we were ushered on into the arena. Whew!
Jake Owen was first. He arrived to greet us in sweat pants and a baseball cap saying he had just gotten out of the shower and to please excuse his appearance. Good grief, some people can wear anything and still look good!! Having met him before I knew he was a good sport so I said, “O.K. Jake, here’s the deal, I have two reindeer antlers, one for you and one for me. I think it will fit over your baseball cap just fine.” He laughed, popped it on top of his head and said, “Well alright then!” What fun! I got a great photo. His road manager tried to sneak one of the antlers away from me but I needed it for Little Big Town’s meet and greet which was next. He reluctantly gave it back.
On to Little Big Town… “O.K. guys,” I said when my turn came. “I have something for you to wear to make our photo a little more festive.” Out came the Santa hats and reindeer antlers. Phillip Sweet grinned and put on a hat. The photographer said, “Uh-oh, the girls spent a lot of time on their hair, don’t mess it up!” “I thought of that,” I replied, “The antlers are on a head band and shouldn’t be a problem.” Kimberly Roads Schlapman and Karen Fairchild each took a set of antlers when Jimi Westbrook, Karen’s husband, complained that HE wanted to wear the antlers – go figure! Karen quickly said, “O.K. honey, I’ll wear the hat.” And everyone was satisfied.
“I want you to know we’re doing this only because it’s you,” Karen told me grinning. “And I don’t want to find these pictures posted all over the internet,” she said laughing along with everyone watching.
Mission accomplished! I packed up and headed into the Arena for the concert. Jake Owen was already into his performance and the crowd was singing and dancing right along with him. He commented that this was the best (and loudest) crowd on the tour so far. He sang a new song he recently wrote, “Don’t Think I Can’t Love You,” which is one of my favorites. At the end of his set he brought a young boy on stage to sing the song “Yee Haw” with him. It was absolutely adorable!
Little Big Town opened with “I’m With The Band” and went on to sing several crowd pleasing numbers such as “A Little More You,” “Lookin’ For A Reason,” “Good As Gone,” plus a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” that had everyone singing along. “Novocaine,” a song from their latest album “A Place To Land” is fast becoming a favorite of mine. “Evangeline,” from the same album, is a powerful ballad against abuse and received a positive response at John Paul Jones. By the time Little Big Town got to their signature song, “Boondocks,” no one was left in their seat. The walls reverberated with “I was born and raised in the boondocks,” as everyone clapped and sang at the top of their lungs. You could tell by the smiles on their faces that Little Big Town loved playing in Charlottesville, VA.
With opening acts like that, excitement was at a fever pitch for Sugarland to take the stage and take it they did. Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush were all over the place entertaining and singing their hearts out. Jennifer is a master at facial and body expressions. What a darling stage presence she has with that southern drawl and charming demeanor. Kristian Bush is the perfect match for her to draw energy from and flirt with on stage. Sugarland’s band showcases their talent on select numbers. I especially enjoyed the Beyonce cover of “Irreplaceable” done country style and “One Blue Sky,” when Jennifer played harmonica. Other songs performed were “Speed of Life,” “County Line,” “Want To,” “Settlin’,” “These Are The Days,” “Happy Ending,” “Just Might Make Me Believe,” “Down In Mississippi (and Up to No Good),” “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” “Everyday America,” “Baby Girl,” and “Something More.”
For the encore Jennifer sang her classic “Stay” with conviction and power. To round out the evening Little Big Town and Jake Owen returned to join Sugarland in singing a medley of covers. First was The Dream Academy’s “Life in a Northern Town” followed by Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” I must say I was on sensory overload by then because all of the artists on stage were having so much fun I couldn’t decide which one to watch or photograph. What a phenomenal concert. It’s one I won’t soon forget. I’m so glad I got to share it with friends and family.
When I got home I noticed I was missing a set of antlers. Jimi, if you liked them that much, all you had to do was ask.