This had to be a heckuva way to come home.
Playing on a huge stage in center of downtown Lexington, Laura Bell Bundy could see signatures of the Lexington skyline, including the distinctive blue squiggle atop the Fifth-Third Bank building; the bustle of activity at Limestone Street establishments like Sidebar and a huge crowd stretched out before her.
The Lexington native has played her hometown a couple times since her major label country debut was released in April. But the Spotlight Lexington Festival, held in conjunction with the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, was her biggest stage so far. She made the most of it with a 90-minute set that added some dimensions to our perception of Bundy, who we know best as a Broadway baby.
She got to that business right away, opening her show with I’m No Good (For Ya Baby) and Boyfriend , two “shakin'” tunes from her “bipolar” – as she described it – album Achin’ and Shakin’.
While I’m No Good featured a disturbing amount of choreography, both songs put Bundy in a more bluesy, soulful mood that people who’ve heard her radio singles or followed her Broadway career never knew existed.
Indeed, while Bundy has entered the country market, you could have called this concert “Laura Bell Bundy in a Soulful Mood” for all the covers she trotted out from Marvin Gaye (Let’s Get it On), Aretha Franklin (Respect and Think) and Tina Turner (Proud Mary – yes, it’s a CCR song, but in her black fringe dress, Bundy was definitely doing Tina’s version). Playing a headlining gig with one album under her belt, Bundy had to pad the set with covers, but it was a crowd-pleasing selection, including tastes of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, the Bob McDill classic Song of the South and Shania Twain’s Any Man of Mine.
They all worked, but the biggest testament to Bundy’s album is how well selections from it held up next to those classics. Please was the highlight of the set, marrying Bundy’s ability to stretch a phrase with her theatrical flair, dropping to her knees in the finale. And Everybody was an exuberant anthem that easily could have ended the show if Bundy hadn’t wanted to channel Tina and present a three-song encore including opener Andy Davis singing yet another soul classic, Stevie Wonder’s Signed Sealed Delivered.
Through the evening, Bundy made multiple references to being home, including a shout out to the “150 members of my family that are here tonight,” leading the C-A-T-S cheer and adding “Free Enes” at the end (a reference to UK big man Enes Kanter, whose eligibility is under review by the NCAA), dedicating Rebound to the team and inviting a trio of dancers from Paris’ Town and Village School of Dance, where she learned to dance, on stage for two numbers.
As the evening wound down, it was obvious this was a hometown girl made good, from her crack eight-piece band to her own ability to command a crowd with her own material. It was a heckuva a homecoming for Bundy. Then again, it was a heckuva a concert for her hometown.