Miranda Lambert w/Chris Young, Jerrod Niemann
Saturday, January 28
Better than: Being a good girl.
At around 9 p.m. on Saturday, the lights went down at the Izod Center and Beyoncé’s “Run The World (Girls)” began blaring from the speakers. Loretta Lynn’s image came up on the screens hanging above the stage; she spoke of how Miranda Lambert, the former Nashville Star runner-up turned arena headliner, was, in her mind, the real deal. From there a rapidfire montage of females who could be identified with one name followed: Oprah, Jackie, Gaga, Bettie, Dolly. And then Lambert herself took the stage, clad in a skull t-shirt and knee-high boots, and launched right into “Fastest Girl In Town,” one of her many rollicking odes to living life as a bad girl.
Hearing one of her chart-topping hits—the vengeful “Gunpowder & Lead,” the accusatory “White Liar”—makes Lambert’s appeal pretty obvious; she’s operating as both an outlaw country star and a confessional crooner, ready to show her scars to any comers and kick the shit out of those people who might cross her. She delivers all of this with a brio that isn’t quite sunny, yet remains bright and thrilling; “I like that innocent smile when you know you’ve done something bad,” she said after tearing through the burn-it-all-down anthem “Kerosene.” The screeched assent indicated that a lot of women in the audience agreed.
This isn’t to say that Lambert is all sass and revenge plots; early in the show she sang “Over You,” a track that she co-wrote with her husband Blake Shelton that was about his brother dying. She noted that two weeks earlier, she’d lost her father-in-law, and that two nights before the show another friend of hers—who she’d known since she was nine—had passed away. “Over You” is tinged with anger, with a chorus demanding “You went away/ how dare you?/ I miss you.” But it’s the sort of mournful anger that comes from sadness tossing itself around inside the soul, eating away at any remaining resolve or ability to contain one’s feelings. “Dead Flowers,” a ballad about a withering relationship from her 2009 album Revolution, is similarly shot through with frustration; it’s one of the most powerful songs in her catalog, full of on-point analogies between a house falling into disrepair and a love falling victim to similar circumstance. Lambert sang both with a certain amount of resolve, her voice arching out in a way that communicated the pain within the lyrics even more plainly.
Lambert’s ability to lay bare those emotions that are normally seen as “ugly”—no matter where they come from—is key to her connection with audiences, but she expresses happiness—or at least satisfaction—well, too. The sense-memory “The House That Built Me” is a sweet ode to not forgetting one’s roots; the sassy “Only Prettier” shows Lambert (who pointed out during the show that she was a size eight) big-upping her self-confidence regardng her appearance; the woozy “Fine Tune,” which she sang while draped on a fainting couch and surrounded by her band, is an exquisite bit of libidinous country-pop that brings to mind, of all things, Weezer’s 1996 alt-rock hit “El Scorcho.”
Lambert’s set was spunky and well-paced and peppered with covers of Tom Petty and Creedence; she thanked the crowd profusely during the show (every country set I’ve been to in the past 12 months has taken time out to thank the crowd for paying for their tickets, and it sure would be nice if other big-ticket headliners took this particular tack as well). At the end she extended that gratefulness to her two openers, the super-straightforward Jerrod Niemann and the season-four Nashville Star winner Chris Young. (Young’s set opened with an ode to drinking beer but soon segued into a slew of tracks aimed squarely at the libidos of the women in attendance; his smooth, seductive style straddled Nashville and Motown, a connection he made explicit with “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”) They closed out the evening with a jaunty take on Waylon Jennings’ outlaw-country staple “Honky Tonk Heroes,” and when the show was done, she was all smiles as the three of them bowed in unison. It’s important, after all, for even a rebel to not forget the people who’ve helped her out.
Critical bias: Been a fan since “Gunpowder & Lead,” although the reworked-Weezer vibe of “Fine Tune” sent me over the moon the first time I heard it.
Overheard: “I see a lot of adult beverages in the crowd tonight.”
Random notebook dump: Not to be That Guy, but… I don’t drive, and so my companion and I took the bus down to the Izod Center from Port Authority—a great, quick trip that costs only five bucks. Return buses allegedly run until half an hour after the event ends, and after the show we—and about 40 other people—waited some 45 minutes for another bus to come pick us up. It was cold and really really windy, and we all waited until we were informed that no bus was coming. Why did no one tell us this until we’d all been nearly frostbitten? Why did the people running the bus not do a count of how many tickets they’d sold and plan accordingly?
Fastest Girl In Town
Heart Like Mine
More Like That
Up Around The Bend
Maintain The Pain
Famous In A Small Town
Free Girl Now
Mama’s Broken Heart
All Kinds Of Kinds
The House That Built Me
That’s The Way The World Goes ‘Round
Gunpowder & Lead
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man
Honky Tonk Heroes (w/Chris Young and Jerrod Niemann)