Thank you, Kacey Musgraves, for showing us what a country-western show looks and sounds like.
Most of us either didn’t know, or saw one on TV way back when we were kids. Country, as you well know, is a dominant force now in the touring industry, but a lot of it’s pop-metal with a Southern accent or roughed-up Jimmy Buffett.
Musgraves was on one of those bro packages in 2013, finding herself a little out of her element opening for Kenny Chesney and Eric Church at Heinz Field while touring on her first major-label album, "Same Trailer, Different Park."
On Saturday, supporting "Pageant Material," she returned on the delightful Kacey Musgraves Rhinestone Country Western Revue, appearing on an eye-popping stage sporting pinkish tinsel curtains from ‘50s/‘60s, neon cacti, a disco ball and band members in western suits with beaded lights. Kacey wore a short, puffy dress with a bow, and said on the second song, “Biscuits,” “you're welcome to square dance if want to.” There wasn’t much room for that as the Stage AE floor was packed tight.
The girl from Golden, Tx., proceeded into a set drawn with small-town characters muddling through lives of raising kids, day drinking, pot smoking, sneaking into affairs and getting into each other’s business, and seeming to enjoy it.
She and the band -- with three guitars going plus sweet pedal steel and occasional banjo -- were so smooth and well-rehearsed, there wasn’t a single note out of place the entire night. They don’t show off or step on the songs. Her pretty voice sat atop the gentle backing, the clever wordplay ringing out loud and clear.
It was Nashville countrypolitan at its finest -- “Pageant Material,” “This Town,” “Dime Store Cowgirl,” “Fine” -- and just when it was starting to become the slightest bit samey, they all gathered at center stage for a playful section where the band members displayed their various side talents (clogging, juggling, balloon-twisting) and the music got looser.
They did the hilariously edgy “Family is Family” and countrified Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” with Kacey jamming on harmonica. Admitting that she’s a “Disney dork,” she had a blast with “A Spoonful of Sugar,” exhibiting her whistling skills and adorable dancing, and challenging the band to play it faster and faster.
She sent the band off to fingerpick her way beautifully through “Merry Go ‘Round,” spinning one of her best choruses -- “Mama's hooked on Mary Kay/brother's hooked on Mary Jane/Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down” -- and brought them back for a final section that included a spirited “High Time” and a cover of TLC’s “No Scrubs," which she pulled off very nicely.
After a rare extended jam on “Die Fun,” they rocked into her signature song, “Follow Your Arrow,” and closed the set by vamping through “These Boots Are Made for Walkin',” revealing that they were also made for lighting up.
She’s not pageant material, she said at the outset, having no real interest in wearing a swimsuit on stage or being Miss Congenial. In beauty and talent, she has few peers.
Kacey Musgraves set list
I Miss You
Good Ol’ Boys Club
Dime Store Cowgirl
Family Is Family
The Trailer Song
Crazy (Gnarls Barkley cover)
It Is What It Is
A Spoonful of Sugar (Julie Andrews cover)
Merry Go 'Round
Mama's Broken Heart
(Miranda Lambert cover)
No Scrubs (TLC cover)
Late to the Party
Follow Your Arrow
These Boots Are Made for Walkin'
(Lee Hazlewood cover)