Martina McBride has long had one of the most powerful and versatile voices in country music. So it comes as no surprise that she can handle material outside her genre, even some of the best-known pop, soul and R&B songs.
Saturday night at the Midland theater, backed by an ensemble that included horn players and background vocalists, McBride spent nearly two hours performing songs cast in various shades of soul and R&B. And her audience of nearly 1,500 seemed to enjoy every minute of the ride.
Her well-dressed band comprised four horn players, who stood behind band stands emblazoned with an “M,” a four-piece band that included her longtime music director, Greg Foresman on piano and keyboards, and three vocalists who added harmonies and old-school dance moves.
The set list comprised much of McBride’s own material plus songs from “Everlasting,” her collection of covers released in April. She opened with two of her own, “When God-Fearing Women Get the Blues” then “Love’s the Only House.” Both were soulful and horn-fed, more Tina Turner than Tammy Wynette.
Before her sassy cover of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night,” McBride explained the spirit behind the “Everlasting” album: The songs come from a time when there was more freedom in the music world and formats were more flexible, she said, a time when Ray Charles was singing country and Patsy Cline was singing pop. The album is her tribute to that era.
She followed that with a version of “Suspicious Minds” that had a light gospel flavor, then one of Aretha Franklin’s best-known songs, “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.”
The crowd was animated throughout the show. Towards the back of the floor, many were out of their seats, dancing or swaying, especially when the groove got irresistible, like during “Come See About Me,” which didn’t quite match the Supremes’ version but came close enough.
The mingling of classic ’60s and ’70s hits with McBride’s own songs showed just how timeless and well-written those old songs are. McBride has nearly two dozen Top 10 country hits and though only a few may be as enduring as the covers she performed, her audience treated most of them with the same reverence. “Wild Angels,” “Blessed,” “Anyway,” “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”: All aroused hearty or warm responses.
The set list included a cover, of Pink’s “Perfect,” a song about bullying and self-esteem. Before that, McBride preached a little. Cut yourself some slack, allow yourself some grace. You’re perfect as you are.
She closed the first set with two holiday songs, “Please Come Home for Christmas,” then a lovely, a cappella rendition of “O Holy Night.” The encore included another solid-gold soul classic, “Son of a Preacher Man,” plus two of McBride’s biggest hits and two of her heftiest anthems: “This One’s for the Girls” and “Independence Day.” Like all that preceded them, both adapted well to their funky, soulful arrangements, as did the petite Kansan with the big voice who sang them all.
When God-Fearing Women Get the Blues; Love’s the Only House; Wild Night; Suspicious Minds; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man; Wild Angels; Blessed; I’m Gonna Love You Through It; My Babe; Perfect; In My Daughter’s Eyes; Little Bit of Rain; Anyway; Come See About Me; In the Basement; Bring It on Home to Me; Wrong Baby Wrong Baby Wrong; Whatever You Say/Where Would You Be; A Broken Wing; Please Come Home for Christmas; O Holy Night. Encore: Son of a Preacher Man; Baby What You Want Me to Do; This One’s for the Girls; Independence Day.