Miranda Lambert opened her concert at the Sprint Center on Thursday with the self-deprecating song “White Trash.” While the country star pokes fun at the way she’s often portrayed, Lambert’s performance proved she’s a class act.
During an era in which most commercially successful country music is disconcertingly straitlaced, Lambert, 36, takes pride in being a little rough around the edges. The Texan’s carefree nature and admirably expansive sound make her one of the most compelling country stars of the past 20 years.
About 9,000 fans witnessed Lambert perform at less than full strength. The singer, on tour in support of her latest album “Wildcard,” was still recovering from an illness that forced her to postpone two concerts last weekend.
Unlike the evening’s opening acts – the up-and-coming bro-country artist Parker McCollum and the rugged honky-tonk veterans the Randy Rogers Band – Lambert refuses to be pigeonholed. Her rebellious nature, along with country radio’s reputed bias against female artists, comes at a price. Curtains covered the upper tier of the Sprint Center.
Lambert seemed frail from her long illness during initial selections, including the 2007 hit “Famous in a Small Town,” but gradually gained energy as her 80-minute appearance progressed.
She boasted about her “pretty good band” with convincing swagger during the jaunty closing song “Pretty Bitchin’.”
The eight musicians demonstrated their range as they compensated for Lambert’s ailment. In addition to interpreting conventional fare like the chart-topping 2010 tearjerker “The House That Built Me,” the band transformed John Prine’s wry folk ditty “That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round” into an arena-rock anthem, merged Lambert’s funky 2011 hit “Baggage Claim” with a cosmic interpretation of Dave Mason’s “Feelin’ Alright” and replicated the sound of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers on “Mess with My Head.”
A rowdy cover of ZZ Top’s “Tush” and a banjo-based reading of Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Love Me” further revealed Lambert’s roots.
The presumably biographical songs referencing her tabloid-friendly romantic life were even more compelling. Lambert cheerfully clowned during the sassy “Only Prettier,” leaned into the litany of painful confessions during “Vice” and made the playful insinuations of “Little Red Wagon” deliciously explicit.
Her willingness to mock the scandals that have plagued her career is disarming.
Lambert may call herself trash, but her ability to perform after her illness further affirms her status as the peerless queen of country music.
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Bless Your Heart!