Thursday night at the Sprint Center, Lady Antebellum made it clear that its sound was taking a hefty swerve.
Before the three emerged from back stage, two horn players (trombone, trumpet) warmed up the crowd, exchanging funky, jazzy solos as they bounded about the stage.
The two would later play an integral part of the ensuing 95-minute set, adding some heavy New Orleans and Stax-Volt flavors to the trio’s pop/country/rock sounds.
Lady Antebellum comprises vocalist Hillary Scott, guitarist/vocalist Charles Kelley and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Dave Haywood. They formed the band in Nashville in 2006 and have released seven albums, including “Heart Break,” released in June.
They have been branded a country band, but like similar-sounding bands (Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town), they willfully mix and cross genres. Their cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy Love,” featuring opening act Kelsea Ballerini, was blatant evidence that they want to build bridges, not fences, between radio formats.
The set list struck a balance between older material, like “Downtown,” which opened the show, and tracks from “Heart Break.” They followed “Downtown” with “Our Kind of Love,” from their sophomore album, “Need You Now.” This version, however, was larded with brass from their guest horn section, giving the song a funkier, more soulful vibe.
After a horn-fortified version of “Dancin’ Away With My Heart,” which was embroidered with peals of slide guitar, Kelley stopped the show to deliver some news: Scott, who is married to Chris Tyrrell, the drummer in their five-piece band, is expecting a child. So is Kelli Haywood, Dave’s wife. Much joy was expressed.
More than 10 years of recording and touring have added layers of polish upon their vocal presentation. Songs like “This City” and “I Run to You” were lacquered heavily with sweet three-part harmonies.
It has also shined up the trio’s stage banter and presence. When Kelley joked that Scott was inebriated, everyone in the place knew he was kidding, and then laughed when she said he was “crazy.” He stirred the mood a couple of times by venturing into the crowd, once with a guitarist from their five-piece band.
The set also included a very brief guest appearance from actor Eric Stonestreet, a native of Kansas City, Kan., who appeared behind Tyrrell for a few moments, hammering a cymbal during “Army,” a soul-rock song with a vintage ’70s yacht-rock vibe.
They dropped in two other covers: a tight version of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One,” which aroused one of several hearty sing-alongs among the crowd of about 10,000; and, with opener Brett Young, a rowdy remake of “Something Like That,” a hit for Tim McGraw.
But mostly they stuck to their own material and focused on deploying those horns, which infused the material with dynamic, soulful energy, significantly benefiting songs like “Love Don’t Live Here” and “You Look Good.”
Other highlights: “Thy Will,” a song Scott wrote for a gospel album she released in 2016; and “Bartender,” which was preceded by a few measures of “In the Air Tonight,” a hit for Phil Collins in the early 1980s, yet another foray into another music realm.
They finished with their biggest hit, “Need You Now,” a song about a heart sick with loneliness and sorrow. As much as any, it’s this band’s signature song, a melodic anthem that’s a bit country, a bit pop and rock — a picture of where Lady Antebellum was and where it came from, but not necessarily where it’s headed.
Downtown; Our Kind of Love; This City; Dancin’ Away With My Heart; Heart Break; Compass/We Owned the Night; American Honey; I Run To You; Army; Thy Will/Hello World; You’re Still the One; Just a Kiss; You Look Good; Lookin’ for a Good Time; Something Like That; Crazy in Love; Love Don’t Live Here. Encore: In the Air Tonight/Bartender; Need You Now.