When country/pop band Lady Antebellum changed their name to Lady A - ostensibly to remove any suggestion of a link with that period in the South where slaves, the threat of insurrection against the central government so as to keep owning slaves, and, well, slaves, gave the whole place a bad stench – it seemed a bold, even brave, move.
(Tricky move too given the name Lady A was already being used by a soul singer who, oops, was Black. Hey, good to see the lawyers getting a bit of a workout eh?)
But, Wind Back Wednesday asks, who knew they had already gone out on a limb, into the unknown, recklessly almost living a devil-may-care existence?
Well, those who had been at this 2015 show in Sydney. We knew.
Qantas Credit Union Arena, March 15
SO THE MOMENT CAME, about halfway through this 90 minute show, when Charles Kelley, he of the low jeans and high spunk appeal (though no bum, he told us after one appreciative yell from the audience. Not now, not ever) threw caution to the wind.
"Let's go off the grid,” he told the band and his fellow Ladies, co-lead vocalist Hillary Scott and guitarist/keyboardist/backing vocalist Dave Haywood (the anti-Andrew Ridgley of the group: vital off stage as writer/producer; not that necessary on stage in the shadow of the two leads).
“No more set list.”
What madness was this? What mayhem could this portend in a show which had been fuss-free in its tenor – Lady A’s base appeal is “we’re ordinary folk who could be you but for a higher level of singing and more expensive casual clothes” - but no less carefully tended than Kelley’s and Haywood’s modern-country-artist-beards?
Surely I wasn’t the only one now thinking that this way lay monsters: dark creatures of spontaneity, of wilful unpredictability.
After all, to quote Long Stretch Of Love, last year’s hit and this night’s second wham bam punch to start: for we who measure our lives by the up-tempo pop rock of these ostensibly country artists (picture Big & Rich crossed with Fleetwood Mac as imagined by a fevered Bryan Adams – and no, you can’t just say Kelly Clarkson), we normally are assured by the thought that "I'm your rock that won't ever roll".
And this, some time before the set finished with the group hug of We Owned The Night, ("And all you did was smile/Yeah, it was perfect/I hold it in my mind") this, oh yes, was threatening to be a roll.
So Kelley and Scott sucked in a deep breath, looked us square in the eye, daring us to look away, and launched into ... oh my, was it really? ... oh those naughty daring scamps, it was ... Islands In The Stream.
Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Islands In The Stream. Oh yeah, baby.
Take that you snooty bastards who call us safe and predictable. Put that in your pipes and smoke it you who suggest our songs are like Scott’s microphone: chunky, glittered up the wazoo and connected to nothing in particular and yet hooked up to everything.
And bite me you who might narkily point out that this song has appeared on our setlists for some time.
Nothing says rebellion like Kenny and Dolly. We. Are. BUSTING. OUT.