First Stop Evansville

Miranda Lambert doesn’t need wind machines, outfit changes, or laser light technology to keep her crowd entertained. The strength of her songs and stage presence is enough. I couldn’t agree more when she sings “We Should Be Friends” — it’s a let’s-go-to-the-shooting-range-with-our-sparkly-nail-polish-on kind of fun.

Evansville’s packed Ford Center greeted Lambert Jan. 26 as she performed the newest songs off her “The Weight of These Wings” double-disk CD as well as some old favorites. My twin sister Jennifer and I enjoy going to concerts together, and we jumped at the opportunity to review the show.

I’ve loved Lambert since I first heard the words, “Forget you high society, I’m soakin’ it in kerosene.” With her sassy lyrics and abundance of adopted dogs, she was the person I wanted to be if I could sing and had a bigger back yard.

The evening kicked off with country newcomer Aubrie Sellers in her first-ever stadium show. She set the high-energy tone for the evening with an electric performance reserved for the likes of a seasoned professional. Five-member Nashville band Old Dominion followed with a string of enjoyable hits. They had the crowd singing along to “Break Up With Him” and “Song For Another Time.” They also performed the tune they wrote for Kenny Chesney, “Save It For A Rainy Day.”

Now we were primed and ready for the evening’s headliner. I’ve read from recent interviews the new songs we’d hear were Lamberts’s most personal yet. Would she cry?  Would she toss back drinks to numb the pain? She answered those questions quickly and owned it all — the stage, the songs, her outfit, and the audience. She came on stage belting song “Kerosene,” wearing a black leather jacket with ombre, light- and hot-pink fringe dangling from the sleeves. Her black skirt sparkled with silver polka dots and the tan-colored boots were ready for stomping. Lamberts’s black “Live Musician Handle with Care” T-shirt was the only indication that hinted at the vulnerability of the artist who has experienced a lot of heartbreak and change over the last year and a half, and channeled it into her singing and songwriting.

In case anyone forgot, Lambert reminded the crowd she divorced last year, so she started drinking a little more than before. Her fans related to her deep honesty and screamed their support loudly when she spoke to the crowd. The set list was a crowd pleaser:

“Kerosene,” “Highway Vagabond,” “Pink Sunglasses,” “Heart Like Mine,” “Keeper of the Flame,” “Vice,” “For the Birds,” “Over You,” “All Kinds of Kinds,” “House that Built Me,” “Fastest Girl in Town,” “Ugly Lights,” “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “Covered Wagon,” “We Should Be Friends,” “Automatic,” “Little Red Wagon,” “White Liar,” and “Gunpowder and Lead.”  She finished with three encore songs — the emotional “Tin Man,” a playful cover of Rod Stewarts’s “Hot Legs” from his 1977 album, and the powerfully charged gospel song “Woke Up This Morning,” with an assist by singer-songwriter Gwen Sebastian.

Lambert engaged her audience, saying she wanted us to feel everything we could possibly feel that night. She succeeded in that. Lambert seemed pleased her audience knew all the words to her latest single “Vice.” She beamed, “Thanks for singing along y’all.” “For the Birds” showcased her dimples and showmanship. After singing the emotional “Over You,” she quietly and quickly mentioned, “I can finally breathe now.” The stripped-down version of “House That Built Me” was a highlight. After that, we all had some feisty fun with Lambert on “Fastest Girl In Town” when she tried to talk us all into a little trouble. I was up for it, and sent Jennifer to fetch the extra beer I didn’t really need.

I hope the highway brings Lambert back to Evansville on her next tour. She told her fans she hoped her music helped heal something for us or get us pissed enough to get over something. For me, the music helped to do a little of both. As the closing words on the screens read, “Music is Medicine.”

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