Earlier this summer, Little Big Town canceled a chunk of summertime shows on their Pain Killer Tour so that singer Jimi Westbrook could recuperate from vocal surgery. Now back in the saddle, the recent nominees for CMA Vocal Group of the Year have returned to the road, playing a string of dates that were originally postponed in the wake of Westbrook’s operation.
The group made up for lost time during a headlining gig at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles last Thursday night. Midway through a 90-minute set of past hits, Pain Killer tracks and deep cuts, Karen Fairchild took a minute to welcome surprise guest Tori Kelly to the stage, gushing over the pop singer’s vocal chops.
“We’re fans of all music,” Fairchild began, “and we heard this girl one night and we were so blown away by her voice, her talent, the finesse. . . I mean, it is so rare and spectacular.”
While the rest of Little Big Town’s backup band took a breather, Kelly — whose debut album, the Max Martin-produced Unbreakable Smile, debuted at Number Two in June — began playing an acoustic version of her current single, “Should’ve Been Us.” Fairchild, Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet all piped in during the chorus, beefing up the tune with four-part harmonies. Stripped to its acoustic foundation and rebuilt as a vocal showcase, “Should’ve Been Us” shone a light not only on Kelly’s ability to croon and swoon, but on Little Big Town’s willingness to reach well beyond the borders of country music.
“Just wait for the Grammy Awards! Just wait,” Fairchild told the crowd after the song’s final note. The collaboration with Kelly isn’t the first time LBT performed with a pop star: the quartet sang a genre-bending version of “Bang Bang” and their own “Day Drinking” with Ariana Grande at the 2014 CMA Awards. The group will perform tonight at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California.