Musgraves proves brilliant, bawdy and beautiful in Riverside performance
Kacey Musgraves made it through the whole concert … well almost, before joking, "I didn't make a 'mill-e-wah-que' joke all night." Ha!
Thursday night's concert at The Riverside Theater was part of the second leg of Musgraves' super successful tour – The Kacey Musgraves Country & Western Rhinestone Revue. And to be honest, I was nervous about this one.
Musgraves has been a beacon of hope for the stale, hick-hop-dominated country music scene. Plus, last week she and Miguel lit up the net with their genre-busting remix of "Waves," which you can see here:
Needless to say, I really, really didn't want to be disappointed. I shouldn't have worried.
Kacey was pure Kacey. Irreverent. Hilarious. Sweet. Artistic. Brilliant.
She had The Cactus Blossoms – a brother duo from Minneapolis – open for her. They were super mellow – country in a total throwback kind of way, silky harmonies, wailing steel guitar. Reminded me of a bunch of musicians in a smoky bar, after close, just kicking around tunes. They were great. Maybe a little too chill for the crowd. But still, great.
A bit of a delay between the The Cactus Blossoms and Musgraves' show offered a stellar opportunity to check out the full-house crowd. It didn't even occur to me that while Kacey's music is so country in a pure essential way, her universal lyrics appeal to the broadest of fans. So if you expect to find the typical country music crowd (boots, hats, plenty of flannel) at a Musgraves' concert, of course you'll find them.
But you'll also find grandmas (who may or may not have been Willie Nelson fans back in the day), hipsters, soccer moms, your amazingly awesome, middle America folks, and, while it may have been debatable, kids under 10 (but hey, by that age, I was listening to Waylon, Devo and the Ramones).
For all the differences in outward appearance of the crowd, one thing was clear, they were all huge fans of Musgraves, who hit the stage around 9 with her bandmates parading out in lit-up, old-style '50s country suits to a very warm crowd cheer.
She lit up the first three songs before pausing greet the audience and to joke that the Riverside Theater was a "might fancy place" and the side balconies qualified it as a "fancy as hell place." After that, she was on a roll, bringing the house down during "Dime Store Cowgirl" when she brought a little kid (maybe 5) on stage who danced with abandon as only kids and drunk people can.
She told stories. Lots of little, quirky, almost way too honest, but awesome stories. Like the time she was contacted by Disney. They asked her to pick one her favorite Disney songs and put her spin on it. She chose (and sang last night) "A Spoonful of Sugar" with a gritty country sound bordering on a steely rock. Killer.
Musgraves' talent is completely undeniable. Her songs are relatable, sometimes painfully so. All that was on full display and shone through above all else last night at the Riverside. She did a really beautiful, heart-breaking, acoustic version of "There's a Person There."
Musgraves – who clearly needs to release a live album – brought the house down (again) with a simply outstanding acoustic version of "Merry Go Round."
But, honestly, one of the very best parts of the night came when she talked about her day at the Riverside. She noted what a "really cool vibe" it had. Plus, everyone knows the Riverside is haunted. But to hear the stories from a southern girl who seemed to just love every second of the ghost tour was awesome.
Pointing to the upper balcony, she said, "If you see a man sitting in the audience up there in a top hat, he did not buy a ticket for the show." And then, addressing him directly, "Top Hat Man, I hope you're enjoying this. I hope you're not like, 'Man, she sucks.'" Brilliant.
Of course, she killed "Follow Your Arrow." And then closed with a cover of Lee Hazlewood's "These Boots Were Made for Walking," complete with flashing light-up cowboy boots.
It's so hard to describe what a rare woman Kacey Musgraves is. She's like the girl every girl wants to be when they grow up – not the popular prom queen has been, but the girl who may not have it totally together, but is free to chart her own course, dismiss convention and do it her way.
Kacey is a real life, modern day version of Barbara Mandrell's "Country When Country Wasn't Cool."
Musgraves is country, true country, at a time when being "real" country isn't a recipe for success in her own industry. In a genre largely controlled by hick-hop and bro country, her songs haven't seen enough airplay. In fact, in her intro to "Merry Go Round," she noted that there had been a lot of radio support in this region for her music at the time the song came out. Not anymore.
But, man, she's got the following and the chops. Her bandmates play the true instruments of her genre (steel guitars, banjos, upright bass) which only adds to her allure. Musgraves brings honesty and humor – think John Prine – to her authentic, rich country sound. Her lyrics are phenomenally spot on – "pissing on my grass won't make yours greener." And though she's sometimes accused of being subversive for having the balls to sing about homosexuality, wrangling with religion and the double standard in her industry; really, her lyrics seem only to be about things in her life that inspire her. She's calls 'em like she's sees 'em.
Despite a lack of recognition by mainstream country radio, outside her own industry, Musgraves is recognized for the phenomenal musical talent she is. In 2014, she earned two Grammys for Best Country Album and Country Song of the Year, beating out Taylor Swift for the honors. That same year, "Follow Your Arrow" also grabbed a spot on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time.
Her first album, "Same Trailer Different Park," has been certified platinum. Her second, "Pageant Material" is currently certified gold.
The show Thursday was an outstanding showcase of Musgraves' unique and rich artistry. If you ever get the chance to see her live, don't pass it up. Just don't.
I Miss You
Good Ol' Boys Club
Dime Store Cowgirl
Family Is Family
The Trailer Song
A Spoonful of Sugar
It Is What It Is
There's a Person There
Merry Go Round
Mama's Broken Heart
Late to the Party
Follow Your Arrow
These Boots Are Made for Walking
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