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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summerfest Daily Highlights: Saturday, June 30

Lady Antebellum w/ Darius Rucker, Three Dog Night and ZZ Top

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Lady Antebellum w/ Darius Rucker and Thompson Square
Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.


It was only a few years back that Lady Antebellum played a side stage at Summerfest. Then the group opened for other country acts at the Marcus Amphitheater. With hits like “Love Don't Live Here” and “I Run to You,” it was only a matter of time until the group headlined the stage. The trio's edgy harmonies coupled with a touch of playful seduction have brought them acclaim and a wide fan base. It was “I Run to You” from the group's sophomore release that propelled them to headlining status and won major awards, both in country and pop circles. The group's winning sound and look features Hillary Scott (lead and background vocals), Dave Haywood (background vocals, guitar, piano, mandolin) and Charles Kelley (lead and background vocals).

On the bill in the supporting slot is an artist who headlined at the Amphitheater with his former band, Hootie & the Blowfish. Now, former lead vocalist and guitarist Darius Rucker has reinvented himself as a successful pop-country artist. He has two albums under his cowboy belt, 2008's Learn to Live and 2010's Charleston, SC 1966. Since trading traditional pop-rock for contemporary country, Rucker has earned himself a whole new audience. —Harry Cherkinian

Three Dog Night
Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard with Coors Light and Tap Milwaukee, 10 p.m.


Three Dog Night has issued recordings of new songs since regrouping in the '80s, but let's face it: What keeps the band on the road are memories of the late '60s and early '70s, when the intriguingly named group (from an era of intriguing musical monikers) was dominant on AM radio. FM rock devotees seldom took them seriously. After all, they scoffed, the Dogs don't write their own songs. Ah, but what songs!

Whether motivated by their own taste or the dictates of savvy management, Three Dog Night recorded a string of gems by top writers during their golden years. Among the 21 Billboard Top-40 hits were nuggets by Harry Nilsson (“One”), Laura Nyro (“Eli's Coming”), Hoyt Axton (“Joy to the World”) and Randy Newman (“Mama Told Me Not to Come”). Years before anyone had heard of John Hiatt, they piloted his “Sure as I'm Sittin' Here” to No. 16.

And then it all ended as abruptly as it had begun. Three Dog Night's middle-school fans graduated, disco dawned and the new worlds of punk, metal and hip-hop were beyond the horizon. But even if you weren't singing “Joy to the World” in the back of a yellow school bus circa 1971, their recordings are worth rediscovering for their superb pop craftsmanship. —David Luhrssen

ZZ Top

Harley-Davidson Roadhouse with Miller Genuine Draft, 10 p.m.


ZZ Top is the rare band that shifted from its roots to show biz without losing integrity. It's as if they decided there was something funny about a little ol' trio from Texas, heavily bearded under big Stetson hats, and opted to laugh along. By the time of the group's chart-topping pinnacle in the '80s and '90s, ZZ Top had wrapped its Rio Grande grit in a tightly choreographed, glossy and, yes, amusing package.

Originating in the '60s Texas garage band culture that produced the 13th Floor Elevators, ZZ Top entered the '70s with a stripped-to-bare-bones blues-rock sound. Touring incessantly, they worked their way from roadhouses to arenas and scored an FM hit with “La Grange,” essentially John Lee Hooker's “Boogie Chillen” barbecued in Texas hot sauce. By the time of their Worldwide Texas Tour (1976), they shared the stage with towering cacti, tumbling tumbleweeds and all manner of Lone Star bric-a-brac. It was all in good fun, and the band went platinum.

In the 21st century, ZZ Top was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, released elaborate CD reissues of earlier work, played halftime at the Orange Bowl and announced their intention to record an album with Rick Rubin that would shift focus back from show biz to the roots of their blunt-edged blues-rock sound. —David Luhrssen