Angel wings and crossed pistols: That was the logo for Miranda Lambert’s “Livin’ Like Hippies Tour,” an image emblazoned on a large curtain hanging at the back of the stage.
Saturday night, Lambert was in town for a show at the Sprint Center, and for a brisk 80-plus minutes, she gave a crowd of nearly 11,000 a steady dose of songs that plumbed the many sentiments roiling through her weathered heart, from the hellish to the angelic.
Lambert is touring on “The Weight of These Wings,” a double album released in late 2016 in the wake of her divorce from fellow country star Blake Shelton. Many of its songs document the ensuing pain and turbulence, and she performed several of those Saturday night.
However, she opened with two of her better-known songs: her joyous cover of John Prine’s “That’s the Way the World Goes Around,” then “Kerosene,” an incendiary tale of revenge and the title track of her 2005 debut album and a song that cast her as a woman who withstood no abuse, physical or otherwise, from any man. It was a reputation that served her well in the world of country music and that inspired other tales of vengeance, none more popular than the shotgun-toting heroine in “Gunpowder and Lead,” one of her biggest hits, which she performed later in the show.
But Lambert’s more effective songs are those in which she is at her most vulnerable, in which she admits to her deficiencies and bares her faults, and she sang several of those. She called “Heart Like Mine” a drinking song, but it’s really an admission of weakness and the urge to flee problems and pain. “The House That Built Me” is a lump-in-the-throat ballad about returning to a familiar place, one that revives childhood innocence, to soothe a broken heart: “Won’t take nothing but a memory / From the house that built me.”
Lambert brings a vibrant, soulful voice to her songs – a soulfulness that softens her Texas twang. Throughout the show she played rhythm guitar. She was accompanied by an eight-piece ensemble that included backup vocalist (and former “Voice” contestant) Gwen Sebastian.
Her band deftly swayed from rowdy, rocking numbers like “Gunpowder and Lead,” “Mama’s Broken Heart” and the feral cover of “Rocky Mountain Way” to other tender ballads like “Over You,” a tear-jerker about irreparable heartache that inspired a loud sing-along, and “Tin Man,” in which she offers to swap her cracked heart for a suit of armor.
There were moments of levity, like the rowdy “Pink Sunglasses,” but even a couple of those had deeper meanings. “Bathroom Sink” portrays what goes through a gal’s mind as she explores herself in a mirror: “It’s amazing the amount of rejection I see in my reflection.” And “Ugly Lights” is about anyone who hangs out at the bar too long: “I still go on and stay too late / And be the girl bartenders hate.”
Since she released her debut 13 years ago, Lambert has become one of country music’s most popular and successful artists: seven gold or platinum albums, a dozen Top 10 country hits and more than 50 major music awards, including two Grammys and a dozen-plus CMA awards.
Yet these days, she is one of the very few women who gets any traction or attention from the country music establishment. There is currently not a single solo woman artist in the top 20 of Billboard’s Top Country Album chart or its Hot Country Songs chart, which measures sales and radio airplay
The genre’s defenders will tell you the charts reflect listeners’ demands and the demand isn’t there for women artists. But the 11,000 or so fans who were at the Sprint Center on Saturday night, singing along to nearly every song, will likely tell you more stars like Miranda Lambert is exactly what country music needs.
That’s the Way the World Goes Around; Kerosene; Highway Vagabond; We Should Be Friends; Vice; Heart Like Mine; Bathroom Sink; Over You; All Kinds of Kinds; The House that Build Me; Gunpowder and Lead; Ugly Lights; Mama’s Broken Heart; Tin Man; Airstream Song; Pink Sunglasses; Rocky Mountain Way; Automatic; White Liar. Encore: Little Red Wagon.