By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Jul 01, 2012 at 12:59 AM Photography: David Bernacchi

I last saw Lady Antebellum on opening night of the 2010-11 NFL season in Green Bay. They played a 4-5 song set, mainly for the national TV audience, but in front of an overflow, VIP crowd. They were tight, upbeat and you could tell co-lead singers Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley (Dave Haywood is the third out front member) were poised for stardom.

Since then, via a world tour and massive airplay, they've skyrocketed to cross over fame, drenched themselves in a national ad programs (sure you've seen their Lipton Iced Tea spot) and more than earned their spot as a headliner.

Given their huge adult contemporary fame, I was interested to see how polished, professional packaging would affect their Saturday Marcus Amphitheater show at Summerfest. Truthfully, I worried they might be too adult contemporary, too Americana and too fine tuned.

Whatever worries I had, seemingly no one else shared as a packed house ranging in age from 7 to 77 helped send Lady Antebellum off the stage for a while in this the final (and one of the largest) stop on their "Own The Night 2012 World Tour."

Lady A isn't on the top of my country "must listen to" lists, but you can't deny their status in the pop-country world. Since debuting with the hit single "Love Don't Live Here" in late 2007, the band hasn't missed a beat, seemingly hasn't done anything wrong and been a nearly constant hit machine. On Saturday, they delivered all this and pretty much what I expected. This wasn't a balls out Chesney or Aldean show, this was a polished, fun production meant to entertain and show case the hits.

Sure, I sang along, but I didn't lose myself like you can during a truly killer show. But, it doesn't really matter with Lady A as their style of adult contemporary county is easy, serviceable and fun.

The big hits were all there, including "Need You Now," "Just a Kiss" and, the big opener, "We Owned the Night."

And since this was the final show for the tour, the band went out of their way to thank fans, the crew and everyone along the way for the success they've enjoyed.

One thing that I truly love about country music is the fans. There's a loyalty that's real, and the great artists don't ignore it. Case in point, before the show, the band came out to JoJo's Martini Lounge and played about 3 songs while people waited in line to get into the Amp. It's little things like this and what happened during "American Honey" that make country music cool. For their hit, "American Honey," Scott and Kelley grabbed a 7 year-old named Bella out of the first row and had her sing the first half of the song. While these types of fan events can often be staged, when Hillary Scott asked the girl where she was from, the reaction was far from rehearsed. Answering, "Minneapolis," the poor girl was showered with boos from the Packer backer crowd and, seriously (and sadly) she looked like she was going to cry. Young Bella recovered well and sang the song from the heart and with passion. It was touching, and seemingly very real.

Covers of Doobie Brothers' "Black Water," the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider" and Aerosmith's (Summerfest's headliner next Saturday) "Sweet Emotion" hit the Summerfest wheelhouse and the crowd truly enjoyed them. Openers Thompson Square and Darius Rucker joined Lady A for the cover set.

National tours have to have a consistency, but I've seen many (like Kenny Chesney who did a nearly 10 song cover encore during his last Summerfest visit) who love to break the mold a bit and step into the Summerfest party box. Not all, though, can do this. And, Lady A pretty much stuck to its tour set list during its eighty minute songfest.

All in all, though, so much of music is about image and entertainment. And Lady A has both. I enjoyed the show and especially the vocals of Hillary Scott, but thank the band for the perfect complement of opener Darius Rucker.

With his heartfelt songwriting that has made him a huge hit on not only country radio but with cross over fans from his Hootie and the Blowfish days, Rucker owned the Amp crowd with an hour long, 13 song set.

I last saw Rucker in 2010, and really much hasn't changed. A few new tunes, but a similar show that's solid, super enjoyable and real.

He powered through tunes from both his solo releases and Hootie's catalogue. Sporting a Nike cap and MASH T-shirt, Rucker let his voice command while cranking through his hits from "Comeback Song," to "This," to "It Won't be Like this for Long." He cranked out two Hootie classics, "Only Wanna Be With You" and "Hold My Hand," one Steve Miller Cover ("The Joker") and even brought his son on stage to show off his Packers gear.

Rucker just seems like on heck of a great guy, and his Summerfest gig was great too. He closed the set with "something for all the people who grew up in the 80s," a rousing rendition of Prince's "Purple Rain." Wanting in on the fun, Lady's A's Charles Kelley joined Rucker in full Prince wig and purple coat. The two belted out the end of the song and closed Rucker's set. It was corny, sure, but fun and probably a good release for a few guys who have been on road for quite a while. listed a 7:30 start time for tonight's show, so we got there at about 7:15 and, sadly, missed the first act, Thompson Square. Now, if I would looked at the ticket, it said 7 p.m. Oh well. Thompson Square, Keifer Thompson and his wife Shawna, I'm told, showed off - in a short set - the reasons they were named this year's Academy of Country Music Awards Vocal Duo of Year.

Lady Antebellum Summerfest set list

  1. We Owned the Night
  2. Stars Tonight
  3. Our Kind of Love
  4. Love This Pain
  5. Dancin' Away With My Heart
  6. Wanted You More
  7. Perfect Day
  8. Love's Lookin' Good on You
  9. Love Don't Live Here
  10. Just a Kiss
  11. American Honey
  12. "Midnight Rider" (with Thompson Square)
  13. Black Water (with Darius Rucker)
  14. I Run to You
  15. Lookin' For A Good Time  


  1. Need You Now 

Darius Rucker Summerfest set list

  1. Love Will Do That
  2. Alright
  3. The Craziest Thing
  4. It Won't be Like this for Long
  5. Only Wanna be with You
  6. The Joker
  7. Don't Think I Don't Think 
  8. Come Back Song
  9. Southern State of Mind
  10. Hold My Hand
  11. Family Tradition
  12. This 
  13. Purple Rain 
Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.