In 2012, “Merry Go ’Round,” the first single from her compelling major label debut “Same Trailer Different Park,” tested terrestrial radio stations with realistic lyrics revolving around small town escapades.
It reached the top 10, went platinum and won a Grammy. More awards and success followed, especially for equally taboo track “Follow Your Arrow,” about outdated family values. They helped draw a progressive-minded audience.
A wide variety of fans attended Friday night’s sold out show at the Wiltern and sang along loudly to nearly everything. Most of the 90-minute main set was culled from Musgraves’ equally solid new album “Pageant Material,” which basically picks up where the last release left off. She co-produced and co-wrote all the autobiographical tunes, recorded them live and used a string section to enhance the organic, 1960s-style sound.
The stage design for this Country & Western Rhinestone Revue tour featured a shiny red curtain and tinsel (like the album cover), while the male musicians were decked out in nifty matching hot pink suits with lights attached. Musgraves wore a rhinestone-studded top, miniskirt and boots.
Opening with an easygoing “Pageant Material,” Musgraves put down her acoustic guitar for “Step Off” and pranced around the stage as she sang. “Mama's Broken Heart,” co-penned by Musgraves and a hit for Miranda Lambert, had attitude aplenty and was an early highlight.
“Dime Store Cowgirl,” which references Southern California locales (key lyric: “you can't take the country out of me”) and on which Musgraves played her silver Gretsch Bigsby electric guitar, was another strong one.
The singer provided background on a few songs, made jokes about booze and weed, let her bandmates display their quirky talents and even introduced her new puppy (rescued from a Washington state shelter). Meanwhile, the band played unobtrusively, letting Musgraves’ plaintive vocals shine. Their acoustic segment, including the down home humor of “Family is Family” and “Stupid,” plus Musgraves' solo turn on “Merry Go ’Round,” all worked well.
Later, mild country rockers “Blowin' Smoke” and “Die Fun” (about living life to the fullest) and “Follow Your Arrow” all got the expected wild responses. Musgraves ended with a frisky, smoldering take on Nancy Sinatra's “These Boots are Made for Walking.” And that's just what she did – all across the stage.
My review originally appeared at ocregister.com
All photos by Miguel Vasconcellos