After a massive free concert double-header weekend, it is safe to say that country stars will be welcomed back to Atlantic City, New Jersey, any time.
Twin shows—Blake Shelton on July 31 and Lady Antebellum on Aug. 3—brought more than 120,000 guests to Atlantic City’s beach as part of the city’s “Do AC” promotional campaign. The shows were presented by the nonprofit Atlantic City Alliance and produced by Live Nation.
Heading over to stage now. Jumping out of our skin to play on the beach in Atlantic City today!!— Lady Antebellum (@ladyantebellum) August 3, 2014
Gates opened at 10 a.m. ET for the 6 p.m. ET Lady Antebellum show, however, fans were using their beach umbrellas to shield themselves from early rain. (Blake’s crowd enjoyed had a sunny day three days prior.) This also caused attendance to slowly build for Lady Antebellum, rather than the chaotic lines that spanned the boardwalk for Blake's enormous show.
Yet, as the seconds ticked down to showtime, the misty clouds cleared and the seagulls began to provide background music for Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott and Dave Haywood’s arrival on the now sunny stage. After setting the night on the right path with their eighth No. 1 single, “Compass,” Charles said, “We're right here on the water and it’s so beautiful. This next song is ‘Perfect Day’ and I think it's the perfect song to sing right now.”
Guests bobbed up and down like buoys in the nearby ocean to up-tempo selections such as the band's 2007 debut single, “Love Don’t Live Here,” as well as “Lookin’ For a Good Time,” and “Downtown” from their 2013 album, “Golden.” As the sun started sinking, props used during the performance of “We Owned The Night” sparkled the dusky sky with purple confetti.
Amidst fan-favorites “Dancin' Away With My Heart” and their first ever No. 1, “I Run To You,” Charles stopped the band after the first verse of “Just a Kiss,” when he caught sight of a man proposing in the crowd.
"Get a camera on these people! Stop making out. What's your name?," he asked. Then, generous with his backstage alcohol, Charles prompted the stage crew to "get some of the good whiskey in the back.” Adding, “I want to give them a shot,” as Hillary screamed, “Congratulations!”
A “cheers” to “all the happiness in the world” was wished to the beaming couple, Juan and Jackie, as their kiss was projected over several Jumbotrons arranged throughout the concert area's 12 zones extending back several city blocks.
While Dave switched off between a guitar, mandolin and banjo, the multiple Grammy Award-winning trio with perfect harmonies also served up sneak-peaks of their forthcoming fifth studio album, “747,” due next month, including their current hit single, “Bartender.”
“We have the best band from Nashville,” Charles bragged before asking, “Is anybody out there from Nashville, Tennessee?” There was also some dirty dancing during the band introductions, which resulted in Charles covering up one bandmate with an appropriately placed hand-towel – but that’s just one moment you had to be there to … er … understand.
“I think we’re gonna remember this for a long, long time. This is a lot of dang people,” Charles remarked. “Where [are] we hanging out after this? That's what I want to know.
Atlantic City oh my! Thanks for the incredible show and for capturing the amazing scene! http://t.co/njbNOeaLXX— Lady Antebellum (@ladyantebellum) August 4, 2014
From those lining rooftops of the adjoining casinos, to the hardcore fans hunkered down on the damp beach with their toes in the rain-soaked sand, the crowd on Sunday night was definitely more mellow than the one cheering on Blake in the same spot a few days earlier. Trading the “let’s drink and party” vibe for more of a sing-a-long, folky feeling, Lady Antebellum asked for crowd participation throughout their 90 minute set.
“Alright, it’s time to test out my singers,” smiled Charles during “Our Kind of Love.” The band also asked for back-up vocalists during “American Honey.”
The beach concertgoers were so loud during the band's country-pop crossover smash “Need You Now” that Charles fell to his knees in disbelief after their encore performance. “We’re never gonna forget this day. That was so good,” he said.
Among the additional show highlights were numerous covers, including Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away,” Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and “Cups (Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone)” by Anna Kendrick, plus an incredible tribute to their "CMT Crossroads" partner Stevie Nicks with a performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon.”
The winners of the third season of FOX’s “The X Factor,” Alex & Sierra (Alex Kinsey and Sierra Deaton), opened the show. Both students of the University of Central Florida, the real-life couple said they felt at "home" on the beach. Coffee shop-esque in mood, the duo tested out never-before-heard songs, including “Almost Home” and “Bumper Cars,” while also performing their debut single, “Scarecrow.”
Atlantic City may be facing the demise of several of its casinos, but this weekend proved that the iconic beach town has more to offer than just gambling. Despite high parking costs maxing at $50, the city’s businesses reportedly saw an increase in sales from the two country shows, and officials are already in talks to bring the free concert series back for the 2015 season.