Little Big Town + Midland + Kacey Musgraves @ Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI
Grand Rapids, Michigan (March 22, 2018) – Often times making one small change in a routine will give a whole new perspective on the eventual outcome. When fans entered Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI, tonight for Little Big Town‘s (LBT) The Breakers Tour that small change was readily apparent. Nestled at the back of the arena just in front of the soundboard was a circular rotating stage set up with a drum set and guitars. After Midland opened the show on the rotating stage fans just assumed that it was set up just for them. Once Kacey Musgraves 40-minute set concluded the stage was configured for the large touring production of Little Big Town.
As the lights dimmed, two large video displays at the rear of the stage began a cosmic display sequence from outer space. As Elton John’s “Rocket Man” played over the PA, Jimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman and the instrumental genius of the group, Phillip Sweet, took their respective positions across the stage. Most in attendance thought it was simply the band’s walk-on song until an overhead spotlight hit Westbrook as he began singing the lyrics to “Rocket Man”.
This proved to be the only chance LBT took as the Grammy Award-winning group jumped right into the hits they are known and loved for. The smooth voice of Fairchild belted out the upbeat “Pontoon”, followed up by “Happy People” and “Front Porch Thing”. Westbrook then took the lead and slowed it down with huge country radio hit and CMA song of the year nominee “When Someone Stops Loving You”. No other song in the LBT catalog highlights the harmonic melodies of Schlapman, Fairchild, and Westbrook any better than this one does.
To bring the intensity of the crowd back, Sweet began to strum his guitar to the opening notes of “Little White Church” which fans recognized immediately. When Fairchild took over with her vocal prowess, the crowd was off again singing and dancing to the band’s signature classic. As the rest of the musicians joined in for the chorus, all four begin to move off the stage and down the aisle toward the small circular stage in the back. With a well-trained security staff leading the way, the group made it onto the stage just as the music was coming to an end. Once there, Sweet announced to the raucous crowd, ”this is where we started, little stages surrounded by fans!”
While LBTs’ supporting band took a well-deserved break, Schlapman started the acoustic set off on the circular stage with fan favorite, “Sober”. The song highlighted the harmonies the band is known for, which by all accounts, were breathtaking, to say the least. With a toned-down version of “Your Side of the Bed” out of the way, it was time for LBT to pay tribute to one of the biggest stars in country music, the recently passed Glen Campbell. While video screens throughout the arena displayed images of the country music Icon, LBT honored the legend with a heartfelt rendition of the Campbell classic,“ Wichita Lineman”. During the guitar solo, band members worked their way back to the big stage just in time for the extended vocal ending.
After the crowd settled back into their seats LBT unleashed a string of hits that the fans had been waiting all night to hear. Radio favorite and the CMA nominated “Better Man” got the crowd up and moving again. A well-placed, guitar-heavy version of “Tornado” soon followed. LBT finally capped off the very entertaining set with the party crowd anthem, “Day Drinking”.
When LBT reappeared to thunderous ovations after what seemed like an extended break off stage, Fairchild quieted the fans down as she sang the controversial hit, “Girl Crush” from 2014’s Pain Killer. All artists want to leave on a high note and Little Big Town was no different. As the band started off on the critically acclaimed hit “Boondocks” from way back, 2005’s The Road to Here, any let down from the previous song was soon a distant memory. As the group moved across the stage waving and singing to their fans everything seemed to come together. The music, harmonies and stage presence that Little Big Town is known for, all on display for their fans to enjoy!
Little Big Town — consisting of members Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet, and Jimi Westbrook–entered the music scene over 18 years ago with hits like “Boondocks,” “Bring It On Home,” “Good As Gone” and “Little White Church.” Albums Tornado and Pain Killer delivered massive success with #1 singles “Pontoon,” “Tornado,” “Day Drinking,” and the history-making, best-selling country single of 2015, “Girl Crush.” Little Big Town recently received their third career Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their multi-week #1, platinum-selling hit, “Better Man” off their chart-topping album The Breaker. Their latest album debuted #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and Top 5 on the Billboard 200 All Genre chart. In the past 7 years they have won over 20 awards, including GRAMMY, CMA, ACM, People’s Choice awards, and also an Emmy. – Little Big Town
Senior Photojournalist: John Swider
Editor: Kate Sumbler