While pop musicians who pursue the artistic fringes are often deservedly acclaimed, sometimes the center can be a perfectly pleasant place to be.
The likable country pop trio Lady Antebellum — composed of Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood — has chosen to go squarely down the middle of the road, and a sold-out crowd at the TD Garden Friday night was happy to take the ride.
Backed by a playful and gifted group of support musicians, Lady A’s 90-minute performance had all the trappings of a typical arena show from slick visuals to confetti bursts, but there was definitely hot blood running through the show’s scripted structure.
Kelley told the story of how meeting Scott changed the course of his and Haywood’s lives, transforming their ambitions from songwriting only to performing as well. And when their voices locked into pristine harmony on such tunes as foot-stomping opener “Compass” (kicked off on a central platform in the audience), wistful “Just a Kiss,” and propulsive “I Run to You,” it was easy to see why the men were so grateful for that bend in the road.
An acoustic medley further showcased Kelley and Scott’s vocal connection especially on “And the Radio Played,” the lilting tribute to their predecessors.
The night’s peak, however, came early with a blistering version of “Love Don’t Live Here,” the trio’s first hit and still one of its best songs. Kelley owned the vocal with an impassioned muscularity and Haywood showed off one of his many instrumental gifts with a fiery guitar outro.
In a conversation about their first concert, Kelley noted his included the Judds and Vince Gill but that his second concert was New Kids on the Block. He started to ask the crowd not to hold it against him but then realized where he was and busted into an impromptu version of “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” which delighted a segment of the crowd happy to “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” with him.
“Need You Now,” the group’s mellow, melancholy ode to ill-advised drunk dialing drew a huge singalong.
The trio closed the night with a cover of Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” so credibly joyous if you didn’t know the song you could picture it as a Lady A original and transitioned into the “Pitch Perfect”-launched rendition of “Cups (When I’m Gone).”
In a smart move, Lady Antebellum chose two popular but distinctly different acts to get the party started.
Fresh off a pair of Grammy wins, Kacey Musgraves started the night with a beguiling set of tunes from her superb 2013 debut “Same Trailer Different Park.” Although she isn’t a belter, Musgraves — backed by a tight combo — made her sweetly girlish voice heard in the arena. The audience responded in kind singing along to her anthems of self-acceptance (“Follow Your Arrow”), small town ennui (“Merry Go Round”), and her rendition of the rollicking Miranda Lambert hit “Mama’s Broken Heart,” which Musgraves co-wrote.
Kip Moore ratcheted up the energy level with a middle slot dedicated to the more rocking side of his personality, kicking off with the rousing “Crazy One More Time.” (For some reason Moore didn’t employ the video screens and, while no one goes to a concert to watch TV, it likely created a distancing effect for those farther from the stage.) He blazed his way through “Beer Money” with an assist from audience members, who were on their feet from the start, and got a nice ovation for his more vulnerable side on “Hey Pretty Girl” and current single “Young Love.”
Musgraves and Moore later returned to join Lady A for a run through Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.”