Miranda Lambert NRG Stadium March 5, 2014
Not above a cheap pop she totally didn't need to get the crowd in her corner, Miranda Lambert sweet-talked an NRG Stadium crowd of more than 60,000 fans for almost an hour Thursday night. But when you're able to convince that many people to sing along to a Dixie Chicks tune that has been banished from the airwaves for more than a decade, you're really onto something.
That's why she can get away with cheesy stuff like the video bit that introduced "Famous In a Small Town," where fans on-site told the camera what made them celebrities back home. Or "All Kinds of Kinds" which featured a selfie montage on the overhead video screens throughout the song, ending with one of Lambert captioned "Houston Kind." Making her fourth RodeoHouston appearance, the 31-year-old East Texas native was a charmer all the way through, from the spirited opening one-two punch of rockers "Fastest Girl In Town" and "Kerosene" to equally fiery closing volley of "Gunpowder & Lead."
In concert, she not only makes you want to be friends with her, she makes you feel like you already are. But beyond that, her material strikes such a deep chord because her authenticity is never called into question. It's just a given that she's lived the stuff she's singing about; whether or not she actually has (but probably she did), she sells it so well that you believe her instantly. That's as true for "Famous" as it is its you-can't-go-home again flipside, "The House That Built Me."
That credibility is one reason Lambert has climbed to the very top of country music's pecking order, one of the very few solo female singers to do so this century. The other, naturally, is that voice that can hit the ceiling at just the proper moment. Even on an otherwise nondescript heartstring-tugger like "Over You," Lambert projects the kind of effortless intimacy that Faith Hill did in her prime, except without grossly oversinging. And nobody is better than calling out good-for-nothing mates on their BS -- "White Liar," "Gunpowder & Lead," "Mama's Broken Heart" -- with acid wit and Tobasco sauce; that she can set it to big-boned, shit-kicking country music just sweetens the deal.
She also has great taste, both in band members and cover material. Saying, "we all miss the Dixie Chicks," and Lambert and two of her girlfriends revived the fallen Texas trio's No. 1 hit from back in 2000, "Cowboy Take Me Away." Not only was the crowd singing along word for word, Lambert and her partners' harmonies were 100 percent on point and no one even booed the very mention of the Chicks' name. Come back Natalie Maines, all is forgiven.
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And finally, Lambert knows how to play to the crowd. For starters, she was wearing a white T-shirt that says "Made In Texas" and a headband that was surely a nice little nod to Willie Nelson. And after "Little Red Wagon" (presented as a nice Neil Diamond-esque pop-rock rave-up swimming in B-3) and "White Liar," she pulled out ZZ Top's "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and instantly won the entire rodeo. Sadly, her band members didn't spin their guitars around, but they sure can play them. Tremendous.
Earlier in the evening, during one of the several moments Lambert thanked the rodeo audience, she referred to herself as a "hometown girl." It's a long way to Houston from Longview, where Lambert was born; and about as far from Lindale, where she grew up, but she wants to claim the Bayou City as her hometown, let her. It's a big state.
Personal Bias: Much prefer Lambert to her so-called better half, who shall remain nameless.
The Crowd: Ladies' night, totally. (Official attendance: 62,276)
Overheard In the Crowd: "It's a religious country, but they don't celebrate religious holidays publicly" -- interesting conversation on the train ride back
Random Notebook Dump: The lead guitarist looked an awful lot like Dale Watson.
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