With Andrew Combs
Majestic Theatre, Dallas
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Kacey Musgraves isn’t quite a hometown girl, but Golden is close enough to Dallas, and we’re certainly happy to have her. The East Texas girl has come quite a long way since releasing her debut album to rave reviews and armfuls of awards in 2013, settling in nicely to a modern day Dolly Parton aesthetic that Dallas fell in love with last night at the Majestic Theatre.
Musgraves’ last show in Dallas was at the Granada Theater last year, a venue with a decidedly different feel. The Majestic is generally a quiet venue, more of a listening room than anything resembling a loud honky-tonk. Either way, the fans who braved the cold to attend Musgraves’ sold-out performance were bound and determined to get the party started, one way or another.
Before Musgraves took the stage, her road crew took to assembling the glitzy, retro, Western chic stage set that so perfectly suits her sophomore album, Pageant Material. Shimmery pink tinsel provided the backdrop, there was a disco ball overhead and her backing band’s light-up suits helped complete the atmosphere for Musgraves’ Country & Western Rhinestone Revue, an updated take on country western variety shows made popular in the 1970s. The result was charmingly kitschy, with plenty of shimmer and sparkle — including an entirely bedazzled mic stand — to really make you feel like you were attending a pageant. There was even a "talent portion," featuring juggling, hat tricks and an eerily accurate impression of a dog barking.
In the midst of the shine, Musgraves opened the evening with “Pageant Material,” the title track from her 2015 release, transitioning seamlessly into one of country’s best tracks of 2015, “Biscuits.” It was clear that while there were many dedicated fans in the crowd, plenty of people last night weren’t exactly familiar with Musgraves’ music. Multiple concertgoers chortled and laughed as Musgraves worked her way through the charming (and occasionally snarky) lyrics as if they'd heard them for the first time.
The truly dedicated among Musgraves' fanbase, though, were in full force. To say that country came to town last night would be a bit of an understatement. Despite the Majestic’s naturally quiet atmosphere, one couple stood on their feet, beers raised high in the air, until an usher (and the crowd) told them to sit down more than once. Later, they voiced their protests to Musgraves, who encouraged the unruly fans to "stick it to the man,” and they did. For at least part of the show, plenty of folks were standing and swaying while others sat quietly in their seats, growing more pissed off by the moment.
Dallas isn’t ever a particularly polite city to see a concert, but last night’s crowd seemed particularly egregious. Even in the slower moments, like Musgraves’ “Fine,” folks climbed over other folks to run to the bar. There were moments when the dull roar of conversation could be heard over the instruments. Musgraves is a compelling performer, but plenty of people in the room last night had decided not to listen before they even got there. “Step Off,” a song about minding your own damn business, was an anthem of sorts for the fans who didn't want to be told to sit down and shut up.
There was one moment, though, when screams from fans resulted in something truly special. More than once, a group of people in the balcony hollered out, “Play 'Five Finger Discount'!” referring to a song that Musgraves wrote about a woman who stole from her (including her panties!) when she first moved to Nashville. Musgraves indulged the crowd with a few bars — notably, “I know you stole my panties because I have the matching bra” and, “You better hope karma ain’t a bigger bitch than me” — and pretty much everyone was left wanting to hear the rest of the track.
Equally great was when Musgraves’ band took a break, and she sat atop a stool to perform “Merry Go Round” with just her guitar. The track from Same Trailer Different Park is still one that feels deeply familiar to just about anyone who hears it, especially those among us who hail from a small town. Musgraves surveyed the crowd, and it was clear that small town folks make up Musgraves’ constituency, who hear in her an authenticity and relatability that has been missing from country music for a long time.
As the evening wound down, Musgraves’ “Late to the Party” shined. It’s one of the quieter tracks on Pageant Material, one that doesn’t have the same viral appeal as, say, “Follow Your Arrow.” If you overlooked this track on the record, Musgraves’ vocals and impossibly sweet delivery proved its strength as one of the better love songs to emerge from the genre in a while.
And that’s where you’re left with Musgraves: feeling like she’s what you’ve been missing for so long. Since her last appearance in Dallas, she’s settled into her skin, and seems more comfortable with the inherent vulnerability in her songwriting. Before our eyes, Musgraves has bloomed from a fixture of the Texas music scene into a real superstar, one worthy of carrying on Dolly Parton’s glitzy, honest-to-a-fault torch.
It’s hard to make traditional country music, a genre that’s older than Musgraves more than three times over, sound fresh and immediately relevant. But that’s why she's so special. The crossover success that Musgraves has seen is a real no-brainer when you’re in the moment and watching an entire crop of fans, many of whom are not typically seen at country shows, totally enraptured.
Before Musgraves took the stage, Dallas’ own Andrew Combs played a quiet, too-short set, largely from his 2015 release All These Dreams. Combs has lived in Nashville for years now, but he’s the perfect opener for a Dallas crowd. Hopefully, he’ll make his way back to Dallas soon for a performance at The Kessler or another intimate venue where fans can really dig into his sound.