Kacey Musgraves is a working girl in her prime. She is still riding the wave of her 2018 career album “Golden Hour,” which was selected as the Village Voice Album of the Year in 2018, was the Country Music Association’s (CMA) Album of the Year, and won a Grammy for best Country Album. As an east Texas native ending her “Oh, What a World Tour,” the concert in Irving, Texas was both a homecoming and a victory lap.
The show started with a 45 minute set by the indie pop band Lucious, a vehicle for showcasing the voices of lead singers Jesse Wolfe and Holly Laessig. I mention Lucious primarily because they started promptly at 8:00, did an act that confused self-indulgent oversinging with passion, and left without terribly overstaying their welcome. The Toyota Music Factory is an indoor/outdoor facility. Due to heavy rains, there was almost a two hour delay before Musgraves appeared. The damper was both physical and psychological with some fans during the long break.
Musgraves appeared at 10:30 to a nearly ecstatic audience reaction that ebbed little throughout the night. Seated in front of me were women in their fifties who sang every word of every song as did the ladies in their twenties behind me. Her fanbase is deeply devoted with a surprising number of openly gay men (not a general trend at “country” shows in the Metroplex).
Visually, Musgraves was reminiscent of Cher with her long straight black hair, a yellow dress slit on each side to her hips, and an Indian jewelry motif. She is simultaneously comfortable in her stardom, gracious, and down to earth. The material, and I didn’t write down the setlist, was heavily weighted to the pop country of “Golden Hour.” She also included the crowd singalongs “Family is Family” from “Pageant Material” and “Merry Go Round” and the thematic “Follow Your Arrow” from the “Same Trailer Different Park” album. The evening’s cover was a lively rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”
With her tell-it-like-it-is homespun bluntness, there’s a bit of Loretta Lynn in Musgraves, another woman who defined her own image by writing her material. Musgraves is a good singer, not a great one, and her band is solid, but won’t awe you instrumentally. The connection that Musgraves has with her audience is based upon her lyrics – everything extending from the concept of being a small town misfit who discovered that following her own path, instead of confining herself to family/community approval, would lead to a life more enriching than most people imagine as a possibility.
Musgraves became an icon of the country establishment by redefining what the establishment should be. She’s smart, funny, self-aware, empathetic, shining in her golden hour. She’s ready for a love affair with you that’s a slow burn, to provide a rainbow in your dark hours, and to enjoy her butterflies when she falls in love. Her music is hitting her audience in the heart, head, and gut at the same time. Her homecoming was a celebration. It was tangible proof that love is a wild thing.
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