Charles Kelley would say the best thing about Lady Antebellum’s Wheels Up Tour, coming to PNC Music Pavilion on Friday, is simply that the fans know their music and are ready to sing along.
And that makes sense, if you’ll consider that Lady Antebellum has been writing hits since 2006, and since then has almost always had a top song on the country charts.
“There’s about 18 singles now that we’ve had, and you’re really able to have moments in every song that you play now, moments where the audience will sing along with you. I think that’s the key to a great show,” Kelley says.
“I remember Keith Urban saying, when we were opening up for him, that it’s important for an artist to never get ahead of yourself and go out and headline before you’re ready. It wasn’t until we had eight or nine hits under our belt that we really started headlining and putting on a great show.”
As for Lady Antebellum’s opening acts – Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt – Kelley says those two singers have plenty of hits of their own.
“Those two guys are on fire. I’ve never seen so many people in their seats for the opening acts in my life. It just shows how big they’ve become,” Kelley says.
The opening acts bring a lot of drive, passion and fun to the tour, Kelley says. They’re writing songs, playing basketball and spending a lot of time together, and he says he sees a lot of himself and his bandmates in young artists Hunt and Hayes.
“It’s like a traveling summer camp.”
It’s not Lady Antebellum’s first foray into Charlotte, of course, but Kelley has spent more time in the area than you’d think.
“I actually worked in Winston-Salem for about a year after I graduated college, so I’ve been around in Charlotte,” he says. But the band has performed in the area multiple times – both on their own tours and also with Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride and other top artists.
Right before Kelley and the rest of Lady Antebellum go on stage, they have one tradition to get the blood moving and get ready to go.
“It sounds so un-rockstar...,” Kelley says, laughing at himself and taking a pause: “But we play pingpong. It gets the blood flowing, and it’s something fun to do.... Just getting ourselves ready.
“It’s pretty laid-back. We’ve been doing this now for about eight years. We’re pretty comfortable with the band and on stage, and I think that’s all you need. You can really lose yourself in the show now, because you’re not nervous.”