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Lady A’s Charles Kelley: ‘We are all about love’

Updated September 24, 2021 - 10:28 pm

Some pertinent details have changed since February 2019, the last time Lady A played Las Vegas.

The venue in which the band plays Saturday night, the Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, was known as the Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel.

The theater the band most recently played was Pearl at the Palms, which is now both closed and under new ownership.

And probably most pertinent of all, the band name 2½ years ago was Lady Antebellum. It’s Lady A today.

It’s a saga that played out starting about a year and a half ago, when Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood dropped its Lady Antebellum name. Detractors complained the name recalled the days of slavery in the Antebellum South. The band announced in June 2020, at around the time of the George Floyd protests, it would switch to “Lady A,” which was how fans of the band had routinely referred to the band in shorthand.

The band inadvertently touched off a dispute with Black gospel singer Anita White, who had used Lady A as her title for two decades. The sides have filed crisscrossing lawsuits for damages. The litigation is still pending, but Lady A the band is staying with the name.

“Never in our career have we had our intentions twisted like this,” Kelley said in a recent phone chat from his home in Nashville. “When we started this band we just wanted to come up with something that sounded Southern, and everyone was just calling us Lady A anyway.”

Kelley said attitudes toward the band’s name began to change, and intensify, about three or four years ago.

“You really started to see some shouting from people online saying, ‘Man, that name is racist,’ and it would eat at us. How could anyone think we’re racist? It just kind of reached a point that if one person takes offense to this, we need to do something about it, because that’s not who were are. We are all about love. Anyone who listens to our music or sees our charity work knows that.”

The band’s charity platform, the LadyAID Fund, provides assistance to several children’s, societal and cultural causes.

“Obviously, we weren’t expecting some of the backlash from it (the name change),” Kelley continued. “But at the end of the day, the world is changing and we want to change along with it.”

Through it all, Lady A remains a great live act and a prodigious band. The holy triumvirate of Scott, Kelley and Haywood are playing a vital role as the Theater at Virgin Hotels re-establishes itself as a premier destination. The venue is reopening after a $7 million refresh, mostly to revamp the sound, redesign the VIP areas and replace seats and other furnishings scarred from more of a decade of rock shows.

Kelley says Lady A’s zeal for live performances has been revived as it returns to Las Vegas.

“We’re so much more appreciative now,” the musician/singer/songwriter said. “I mean, we’ve been doing this 15 years, and nothing will make you stop taking things for granted more than dealing with a pandemic being forced to take two years off.”

The conversation was just as Kelley was about to turn 40. Even a cursory read of his bio gives an indication of how we planned to spend that benchmark birthday.

“I’ve got my brothers and my dad coming to town, a couple of buddies, and we’ll have a little party and play some golf for a couple of days,” Kelley said. “That’s all I do (laughs), is golf and play music. Probably the only two things I really feel like doing, that I am good at.”

Kelley was born in Augusta, home of Augusta National Golf Club and home to the Masters. He’s also played the city’s premiere golf course, Shadow Creek. How does the best of Vegas hold up to the Masters course?

“Shadow Creek is up there,” Kelley said. “That place is absolutely mind-blowing, it really is.”

A fellow musician rekindled Kelley’s interest in golf.

“I tell you, what’s so funny, I put the game down for a long time. And Darius Rucker and I are really close buddies, we’ve toured a lot, and he plays every single day,” Kelley said. “We did a couple of co-headlining tours and he really got me back into the game.”

And getting back into the game is what it’s all about.

“We’re just glad to be out here playing music again,” Kelley said. “We just want to make people feel special.”

Black & White, all right

The AFAN Black & White Party is back to full capacity, after a pause in 2020, at the Lawn at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The event runs from 8 p.m. until midnight. “Welcome to the Jungle” is the theme, so either dress as your favorite wildlife effect, or as Axl Rose.

Ample food-and-beverage stations will be set up around the outdoor events space.

Expect appearances from Aquaria, winner of season 10 of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”; co-hosts Bryan Chan and Norma Llyaman; the gents from Chippendales at the Rio; The Strat Theater headliner Xavier Mortimer; “Miss Behave Game Show” star Amy Saunders; the casts of “Faaabulous! The Show” at Notoriety Live; “27 — A Musical Adventure” at Virgin’s 24 Oxford, “Wow —The Las Vegas Spectacular” at Rio, “Sexxy the Show,” at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club (on pause until Oct. 8 at Westgate Cabaret); the Doo Wop Kings vocal act; and the Queens from Piranha Nightclub.

Guests are required to provide proof of full COVID vaccination, which means you must receive your final vaccine dose 14 days prior to the party. Or, provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. A negative test must be obtained within 72 hours leading up to the event. GA tickets start at $45. For ticketing and assorted information, go to afanlv.org.

‘Zombie’ rises

The last show I attended before the pandemic shutdown in March 2020, “Zombie Burlesque,” is returning to V Theater at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood on Oct. 21. Auditions are set for Monday at David Saxe Productions Studuios at 5030 West Oquendo Road in Las Vegas. Singers start at 2 p.m., dancers at 4 p.m. For info, e-mail casting@davidsaxe.com.

Cool Hang Alert

The 18th Annual Best in Show is set for 11:45 a.m., doors at 11:15 a.m., Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The event is an open adoption of 50 canines, and also a dog show (but it is an exhibition, not a competition, please no wagering). Recording star Debbie Gibson is among the judges. So is yours truly. Ruff assignment, right?

The event has a silent-auction component, too, and is a showcase for dogs small, medium, large, variety pack, and puppies. One champ will be crowned, but all participants will be available for adoption during the event. Usually, every one of them finds a home. GA admission is $5. Get there.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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