Review: Miranda Lambert at 1STBANK Center, 3/17/12
Miranda Lambert is justifiably incredulous. She's twenty songs into a 22-song set, and just as this St. Patrick's Day edition of her She-Woman Men Haters Club is winding down, someone on her crew has taken it upon himself to preempt the proceedings by turning on the houselights and queuing up the exit music, prematurely signaling the end of the evening. "What the hell?" Lambert demands, returning to the stage just in time as folks are beginning to exodus en masse. "Number one, someone's fired," she assures us with the arena darkened again. "Number two, we're supposed to do an encore. Duh!"
"Um, I think everybody's flustered because we had a huge pop icon in the house," she reasons, referring to a certain pop diva who made an unexpected cameo just moments ago (more on that in a minute), before admitting, "So, I don't know what's happening. But we are not done, damnit! I mean, if I'm going to put on fishnets, I'm going to do a damn encore!" And indeed, she is not done. Lambert has one last thing to add. "Are we good? Is, like, a bomb going to go off or anything?" she asks rhetorically, before pointing out (to her crew, presumably) that her mike stand is loaded: "By the way," she says, "this shotgun does work. I might need to use it."
Yessir, in case you're wondering, Miranda Lambert is precisely the same sort of spitfire in person as she is on her recordings. A feisty little gal, she seems just as likely to match a dude shot for shot before ultimately drinking his ass under the table as she is pushing over a table and punching a knuckle-dragging mouth-breather in the mouth, sight unseen, if he happens to get sideways with her. She's outspoken and audacious, especially when it comes to men she views as domineering (ask Chris Brown).
There is an oft paraphrased passage in the Bible in which the Apostle Paul talks about being in the world but not of the world. The overarching message to believers: Just because you're living amongst heathens doesn't mean you have to act like them. A parallel logic could be applied to Miranda Lambert, who although she's a viable, respected member of the Nashville establishment, she and her music scarcely resembles the glitzy, pre-fab pop perfection that tends to be crapped out by the Nashvegas machinery periodically. What's more, despite being an arena-filling, Grammy-winning act, whose first real notoriety came from contending on Nashville Star, Lambert somehow still seems like a bit of an outsider, a traditionalist cut from the cloth of Dolly Parton rather than a pristine pinup.
That's not to say that Lambert's not perfectly lovely -- by anybody standards, she's quite fetching; Mr. Blake Shelton is indeed one lucky fella. Just the same, as she herself points out before "All Kinds of Kinds," she's as real as the music she makes: "They expect me to look a certain way and act a certain way and weigh a hundred pounds, and I don't," she admits, "because frankly, I like to drink beer and eat a chicken fried steak." While she's not exactly a candidate for Celebrity Fit Club by any means, her healthy physique certainly bears this out.
Lambert carries herself with an unmistakable assuredness that tells you she's very at peace with who she is, and that estimable sense of self fuels the instant relatability of her anthems of empowerment. These songs have clearly struck a deep and resonating chord with the ladies on hand tonight, all of whom have long abandoned any sort of self-consciousness as they elatedly dance with one another while passionately bellowing along with Lambert's words at the top of their lungs (some, of course, more tuneful than others).
The most striking thing about Lambert is how well she manages to maintain a delicate balance with her brand of country: While emotionally-charged songs like "Gunpowder and Lead" (made even more rousing tonight thanks to a surprise cameo from Kelly Clarkson, who adds backing vocals after turning in servicable version of her song "Stronger," backed by Lambert's band) are kindred and can hold their own to modern fare like "Before He Cheats," other tracks like "The House That Built Me," evoke an earnestness and authenticity on par with the genre's framers, particularly on this evening, when, after an extended arpeggiated acoustic intro, Lambert delivers a notably poignant rendition of the tune worthy of Dolly and Reba McEntire, two touchstones she periodically recalls.
Even more impressive is how well Lambert relates to and engages her audience. Despite a token dedication to "all the awesome guys in the audience" tonight just prior to an exceptional version of Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" (one of four covers that she positively owns, and which she admirably recalls Patsy Cline), the men are in the minority here, and we all know it. If this notion isn't clear from the scorned-woman thematic of Lambert's songs or, hell, even just from looking around, Lambert's banter and presence drives the point home rather succinctly.
From serenading the ladies from the lip of the stage during "More Like Her," to singing one "just for the girls," to beckoning her supporting acts, Chris Young and Jerrod Neimann, back out on stage during the final number, Waylon Jennings's "Honky Tonk Heroes" ("I don't play, girls. I bring some eye-candy out here for you to look at"), it's pretty obvious who the show is aimed at. While for better or worse we may all live in a man's world, as James Brown once proclaimed, here it's Miranda's world, and girl power is in full effect. By the end of the evening, regardless of your gender, there's a good chance you'll find yourself saying (or at least thinking) "You go, girl!"
Lambert's charming down home demeanor makes her positively irresistible. Before "Only Prettier," as she relates a conversation she had with Lady Gaga (whose "You and I" she offers up a country-girl version of earlier in the set) at the Grammys, and Lambert marvels at how the powers that be who saw fit to seat Gaga next to a couple of hillbillies, you can't help but be endeared by her. At one point during their chat, evidently, when Gaga wondered if there are contentious rivalries in country like there are in pop, Lambert confessed, "You know what? We act like we're one big, happy, country music family, which is cool. But personally, I like to win as much as the next blonde girl, okay? I said, you know what, I actually wrote a song about it. You should look it up. It's called 'Only Prettier.'"
Personal Bias: I listed "Gunpowder and Lead" as one of the top singles on my Pazz & Jop ballot a few years back, and the sentimentalist in me has a soft spot for "The House That Built Me."
Random Detail: Lambert observed St. Paddy's Day by donning a green top (bra?) that peeked out from underneath her black dress.
By the Way: The vocal effect that Miranda Lambert employed on "Fine Tune," presumably created by the vintage mike she was singing through, distorted her vocals in just the right way that made it almost sound almost like some lost Sara Vaughn transistor-radio transmission or something. Bonus, BTW: Whatever acknowledged imperfections might have been present in the set ("We usually have our crap together," Lambert pointed out) overall, Lambert played with conviction and her backing bad played with trained precision of session players.
1STBANK Center - 3/17/12
01. Fastest Girl in Town
03. Heart Like Mine
04. New Strings
05. Over You
06. More Like Here
07. Baggage Claim
08. Fine Tune
09. You and I (Lady Gaga cover)
10. Maintain the Pain
11. Dead Flowers
12. Famous in a Small Town
13. Only Prettier
14. Free Girl Now (Tom Petty cover)
15. Mama's Broken Heart
16. All Kinds of Kinds
17. The House That Built Me
18. Stronger (Kelly Clarkson guest spot)
19. Gunpowder and Lead
20. White Liar
21. Do Right Woman (Aretha Franklin cover)
22. Honky Tonk Heroes (Waylon Jennings)
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