Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lady Antebellum: Hello World?

First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown, PA June 2, 2012

I get it with the security pat-downs at concert venues, I really do.  Those places are full of drunken people who’d probably shoot you if they could.  But when it takes an hour of standing in a long line just to get from the parking lot to the turnstiles, all you do is make a crowd angry for losing their tailgate buzz — especially when they’re standing in the pouring rain listening to the muffled strains of the opening act from outside the venue.

This is what we missed: Thompson Square

Why the lines? Because female fans have to get patted down by female security guards — and it takes longer to do this because women tend to have handbags that also require a search. One would think that it would make sense to employ twice as many female security personnel to speed things along, but no: at Pittsburgh’s First Niagara Pavilion Amphitheater, male and female guards are alternated, the men generally standing there doing nothing except a perfunctory pat-your-pockets to the odd male concertgoer who happens to want to get in. It is worth noting that the men at country concerts tend to be wearing nothing but shorts and a pair of boots — and maybe a hat — which a quick (or lingering) glimpse will make obvious they are weapons-free.

The result of this — particularly at a show that tends to attract a large female crowd, as it did for Lady Antebellum last night in Pittsburgh — is that the venue quickly fills up with men waiting for their lady friends. And what do they do to pass the time? They drink. Perhaps this whole security detail thing is a devious ploy to increase concessions sales. In any case, by the time the womenfolk show up, they (the ladies) are pissed, and several drinks behind.

One of the many reasons they are pissed (in addition to having missed the opening acts and the chance to use the bathroom before the show starts in earnest, and any shot at a choice spot on the lawn), is that they have stood for an hour only to get past security with the proviso they surrender their umbrella. New rule: no umbrellas allowed. All 23,000 people here tonight have umbrellas. They are also confiscating lawn chairs. Needless to say, with pouring rain all day, the lawn is a tad wet.

It is with this in mind that I offer this gentle suggestion to the bands: while it is nice that you thank us (as you invariably do) for spending our hard-earned money to buy a ticket to come see you, you might also pay attention to the weather conditions outside the tour bus and thank us I an heartfelt way, for having endured several hours of standing in line in the pouring rain. That would go a long way towards making your visit to our neck of the woods seem less like an anonymous stop on your massive tour. (Am I the only one who cringes when a band member begins “Hello…,” hoping they get the location right?)

Sometimes, an attempt at appealing to local pride falls flat. This is usually because some sporting reference is lost on a particular crowd. Last night, Darius Rucker told a lovely anecdote about meeting his hero Dan Marino, which was met with utter silence from the sodden masses, probably to his puzzlement. This is because the crowd consisted of teenage girls whose only notion of the legendary quarterback is that he’s one of those guys in a suit on TV commenting on the game. They never knew that Pittsburgh was his proving ground. They are also too young to appreciate the Hootie and the Blowfish song that mentions crying when the Dolphins lose.

They are also too young to recognize Rucker’s magnificently decadent version of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” which has become his go-to closer. I think the girls standing near me thought it was a taste of his next single and weren’t too keen.

Speaking of not being too keen, the female person whose delightful company I enjoyed suffered for the hour of waiting to enter the venue, had much to say on the matter of Mr. Rucker and his ilk. And by ilk, I mean black people. I am still unsure whether this person was even aware she was attending a concert at which a “nigger” (her word) was going to be tolerated actually performing (she certainly wasn’t shy about letting everyone around her know of her distain for the darker-skinned security guards). She was also on a tear about the hoards of “bitches” from the other queues whom she perceived as a threat to her place in line. She was a thin-featured, weather-beaten women who was wearing earrings made out of Budweiser bottle caps, which she proudly assured us she made herself. (“Y’all can find me in row H if you want me to make you a pair.”) Poor row H: I wonder how their evening went?

For those still wondering why on earth Hootie has become a country act, consider this: if Hootie (and his Blowfish) were around today, they would be a country act; they're about as country as Lady Antebellum is.

More songs the young crowd don't know. 

The earliest shows in a concert season are subject to their own universe of woes. In late May / early June, chances are that by the time the sun goes down it is pretty cold. If you are also soaking wet, you’re going to be uncomfortable. Folks want to get their groove on and wear summer concert attire, but ladies: shorts, tanks and flip-flops are not ideal when it’s only 54 degrees out. On the other hand, the men are all covered up (boo), mostly in camouflage. They’re hard to spot. The number of darkly tanned girls at such an early date is curious. The spray-on crowd are usually the ones sporting very natural-looking two-or three-toned hair; black and white was popular last night, as was purple and white, and a lady with red and white stripes.

If I am going to veer into the cruel world of fashion faux-pas, I am duty-bound to mention the redneck girls who could stand to lose 50 lbs or so who have adopted the one-shoulder top. This is a garment designed for women who are not you. It is not clear who, exactly, but most definitely not a woman whose massive chest is being contained by an industrial-strength bra. The whole one-shoulder thing sort of precludes a bra strap, no? While I’m at it, if your face has not yet settled down from the acne that riddles it, invest in a course of Proactive rather than spend your cash on facial piercings. Too many spots.

As for Lady Antebellum: Mrs. Scott appears to have been put on a diet, or marriage agrees with her. Mr. Heywood has a better haircut. (Y’all know what I’m talking about.) And Mr. Kelley still looks like a really tall, thin Muppet, but one with a voice like melted chocolate. When Hilary said they only formed five scant years ago, it seems shocking they could be headlining a tour, let alone one that didn’t haul out all of their hits. I thought maybe “Hello World” might appear as an encore — but no. A song with that title for their entrance onto the larger stage might have been a no-brainer, but hey, what do I know.

The damp and shivery Inky Jukebox X

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