If the fashion police were out in force in west London tonight, then the venue would be half empty. There are too many badly patterned shirts, some pretty dodgy haircuts and plenty of Stetsons annoying people who've sat behind them! But then, these people are getting into the spirit of country. They've come to see the latest band to take Nashville by storm.
Lady Antebellum are Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott, but they've brought some pals along, with the stage filled by five other musicians as they launch into 'If I Knew Then'. Before you have time to say "sit down cowboy", the Shepherd's Bush Empire is ready for one huge hoe-down. The place is full, and within 10 seconds, rocking. Yes, rocking.
Lady A (as seems trendy to call them) have been sweeping up country awards for the last two years, with their simple but effective country-pop. Their mixture of female and male vocals works terrifically, and they know a cracking tune. Tracks like 'Hello World' and 'When You Got A Good Thing' are made for radio airwaves.
In fact, earlier this year if you went to America, it was impossible to escape their award winning 'Need You Now'. It was pretty hard to escape it here actually, and the song is saved until the end, along with another award winner 'I Run To You'. Both are performed with great panache and the band seems genuinely touched by the reaction of the London audience. There are some intriguing cover versions thrown in. One works well, Tom Petty's 'Free Fallin', while their take on Radiohead's 'High And Dry' needs to be kept under one of those Stetsons from now on.
Although British audiences often embrace country artists, they never catch on in such a big way as in the States (Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood for example). The reason Lady Antebellum have done so well in the UK, is their sound ticks all the Tesco music buying boxes so well. There are enough ballads in between the twangs and fiddles, to keep the housewives happy. But on stage tonight, there are also those annoying country traits that can put us off; wide beaming smiles, continually choreographed walks from the back of the stage and there's just way too much love in the room for it to be healthy.
Having said that, you can't imagine Lady A playing a venue of this size here again, the audience is only going to grow. It's a pleasure to see such a well oiled machine in action but as someone once said it's all "just a little bit country."