Little Big Town Night 1 Eccles Theater
Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe
It’s hard to believe, but Little Big Town finally played Salt Lake City on “The Nightfall Tour”. The show had to be rescheduled at least twice. Covid-19 and the pandemic caused a lot of shows to be postponed and ultimately canceled. But Little Big Town never canceled. They tried to keep the initial date, then tried to keep the next one, and finally, they were able to play two nights at Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake City. People who held on to their tickets finally got the payoff months later. We had the opportunity to attend night one and it was obvious that both the band and the audience were happy to be together.
Little Big Town required concert attendees to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of the show. I know not everyone is crazy about it, but I have to say that this was the safest I’ve felt at a concert all summer. I’m not a scientist or expert in all things Covid so all I can say is that the peace of mind was nice.
Caitlyn Smith opened the show. The audience loved her and was very gracious with their praise of her. She was joined by her husband on keys for some songs. The first thing I noticed about Caitlyn was her voice. It stands out so much it’s almost impossible to notice anything else. She’s an incredible country singer. She has so much power in her vocals. Being in a venue like Eccles Theater, with only a guitar and occasional keys, Smith’s voice was able to ring out and bounce around the walls of the beautiful theater. There’s just something about a stripped-down performance that allows for the vocals to become even more front and center than they normally might be.
Caitlyn shared that she loves Salt Lake City. She told us that we had great coffee. Who knew? I mean, I know there are some great coffee houses in Salt Lake City, but I would have never thought it would have been one of our strong points. I’m really curious now where she went.
I had never heard Caitlyn Smith’s music before seeing her live. I was really impressed with her songs and her voice that I have since listened to quite a bit of her music and encourage any fan of Country music or a great voice to do the same. She set the tone perfectly for this concert.
The theater went dark, and “Stardust” by Willie Nelson played over the speakers. Blue lights dimly lit the stage. When the song ended the silhouettes of the four members of Little Big Town appeared at the center of the stage. The crowd went wild, and gradually the lights came up to the group performing “Next To You” the first song on their 2020 album, Nightfall. The harmonies were instantly recognizable. They have a distinct sound. That is why we love them, isn’t it? That four part incredible harmony. People were smiling so big. It was happening! It was finally happening. As the spotlights grew, so did the grins. I’m not kidding. Ear to ear folks! People were so happy. The song hit its climax and all the lights beamed. We were off and running.
LBT (That’s what you call them when you’re tight with the band), followed “Next To You” with the second song off of Nightfall, the title song of the album. A few people stood up. This song has a steady beat and some people were eager to dance. Little Big Town kept things upbeat with “Sober”. More people stood up, and even more were singing along. No one stayed in their seat when they followed “Sober” with one of their #1 hits, “Pontoon”. This song could have been placed anywhere in the set and people would have gone nuts.
One thing is for sure, Little Big Town fans know every word to every Little Big Town song. I don’t hate it. I was fortunate to be seated about ten rows from the stage and dead center. It was a great view of the band, the fans, and the theater. So I had people to the sides, behind and in front of me singing. They sang every word! Like every single word. I was so impressed. I’m pretty good with lyrics, but these LBT fans knew their stuff. And I have to say, the majority of them actually sounded pretty good. So I didn’t mind one single bit.
After songs featuring Karen Fairchild & Kimberly Schlapman on lead vocals, it was cool to see Jimi Westbrook (Rollin’) and Phillip Sweet (Bring It On Home) featured on lead vocals. It just shows the deep talent of this band. Each one of them can front their own band and release their own music. The four of them together is something special.
LBT shared with us that it had been 469 days in between shows. They started at Carnegie Hall in New York City, then played a show at the Apollo in Harlem and then everything slowed down. LBT shared that they were grateful we all showed up and expressed appreciation for Caitlyn Smith. They admitted to maybe drinking a little too much during quarantine and then dedicated “Overdrinking” to anyone who was cooped up with someone they were over during quarantine.
I could easily go through this show song by song, but let me just give you the highlights. I thought I was happy to hear “Better Man”, another #1 hit for Little Big Town. But no one was happier to hear this song than the gentleman next to me. The first notes of this song were heard and he jumped out of his seat and exclaimed, “Oh for goodness sake!” I had to laugh. Mostly because of his choice of expression. He proceeded to slow dance with his wife throughout the song. She seemed a little embarrassed but gave way to the moment. It was really fun.
A song I had not heard before but really love is “The Daughters”. The chorus goes “I’ve heard of God the Son and God The father. I’m still looking for a God for the daughters. It’s a powerful lyric. Whenever the words were sung, the women inside Eccles Theater would cheer. I recommend giving it a listen. Karen Fairchild takes the lead on vocals and performed it perfectly. I love coming to a show and hearing a song I haven’t heard before. It’s the moment and the performance that makes a song stand out. And this song stood out to me.
“We love coming to your town! We’ve walked your streets and shopped your stores.” Kimberly Schlapman shared her love of Salt Lake City. She asked us if any of us had a front porch. The crowd cheered, not only because a lot of them possibly have a front porch, but I’m sure mainly because they were about to hear Little Big Town perform “Front Porch Thing”. During that song, Katie Ricks, a fan of Little Big Town since their second album, handed Karen a framed collection of lego miniatures of the band. She showed it to the band and they all seemed to love it. She then propped it up next to the drummer.
The band closed out their main set with some heavy hitters. “Tornado”, “Little White Church”, and “Wine Beer Whiskey” are some of the band’s biggest hits. People were dancing and as into the show as they had been all night. And that’s saying something. It seemed like this segment of the show really featured Karen Fairchild. She has an amazing voice.
Little Big Town left the stage with their backing band jamming out. The crowd roared for them to come back. I don’t know how anyone had a voice left. They sang along to every song and screamed their cheers in between songs. But they were still able to muster up enough voice to call Little Big Town back to perform two massive hits for them. They started their encore off with “Boondocks”. Everyone had one more chance to dance and sing. And believe me, they definitely did. They closed the night with, “Girl Crush”. I really enjoy this song. It was the perfect closer. I don’t have the stats but I think it’s their most popular song. It stretched beyond the world of Country music.
I can’t imagine night two of Little Big Town at Eccles Theater was any better than night one. It may have been as good, but I don’t know that night one could be surpassed. It was a really enjoyable night of music. I went into this concert somewhat blind. I knew a few LBT songs, and I was definitely out of place compared to the others there. But I hope to see Little Big Town when they come back to Utah. They’re that good.