Miranda Lambert Reliant Stadium March 16, 2011
Shucks, ma. Our lil' ol' East Texas gal done all growed up.
Sugar and spice and definitely everything nice, unless you piss her off, Miranda Lambert is a different kind of crossover act. A rocker at heart and pop singer by trade, Lambert makes her material more country by the sheer force of her personality.
Wednesday night in front of 73-something thousand people at the Rodeo, she was the small-town girl done good.
"I've been playing bars since I was 17 years old," she told the crowd. "I played the Firehouse Saloon to seven people. This lil' Texas girl has come a long way - what do y'all think?"
Where she excels, though, is the slice-of-life stories the Lindale native has adopted as her birthright, whether the 3A high-school yearbook set to a brisk country-rock clip that is "Famous In a Small Town" which dovetailed perfectly into a cover of Hal Ketchum's "Small Town Saturday Night" - the simple pleasures of a humble musician ("New Strings"), or finding kinship with our Lord and Savior in her cups in "Heart Like Mine."
When Lambert slows down, she doesn't lose steam, either. "Dead Flowers" was not the Stones cover Aftermath was hoping for when we saw it on the mixing-board set list, but turned out to be a wispy ballad with hints of Explosions In the Sky's Friday Night Lights soundtrack. "The House That Built Me," the forlorn ballad from 2009's Revolution that won her a Grammy last month, has the wisdom of someone who has come to grips with her past without getting trapped there.
Although it's got to be harder for her to get away with acting the underdog, especially after that Grammy, Lambert can still play the part (for now). Torchy piano tune "More Like Her" reminded Aftermath quite a bit of Dolly Parton, minus about 80 percent of the cornball schtick. We adjusted that to minus 60 percent after the Firehouse speech, but still.
As a self-professed "beer-drinkin', hell-raisin', deer-huntin', chicken-fried-steak-eatin' Texas chick - we told you she could lay it on pretty thick - Lambert is obviously most at home tearing it up, though. During strutting rockabilly blues of Earle's "Hillbilly Highway" and muscle-car theatrics of Rick Derringer's "Rock & Roll Hootchie Koo," Lambert romped around the stage, strumming her guitar, shaking a tambourine and mugging with her band like the happiest girl in the world. She probably was.
This is a woman who came up during the age of Alanis, a Southern rocker clad in a country singer's spangly black mini-dress and high-heeled boots, so it wasn't surprising when she went straight to the source with a cover of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock & Roll" that would have blown the barn doors off the Ryman Auditorium. Too bad a lot of the crowd had already begun the Reliant Retreat during "White Liar."
No matter, though. There were still plenty of those 73-something thousand people on hand for one final round of buckshot on "Gunpowder & Lead." Lambert is now famous in a small town, and a lot more besides. Ain't she sweet?
Personal Bias: An East Texas girl who loves to howl at the moon and shoot out the lights? We'll have to get back to you on that.
The Crowd: Ladies' night.
Overheard In the Crowd Seen On the Media Platform: An older man and much younger woman slow-dancing during "The House That Built Me" while she mouthed all the words. He had a wedding ring and she didn't, so we're just going to assume they were father and daughter. In which case it was very sweet.
Random Notebook Dump: We thought the acoustic guitarist (who looked like Gary Busey) introducing "The House That Built Me" with a verse of "The Green, Green Grass of Home" was a nice pre-St. Patrick's Day touch.
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The Revolution Starts Now (Steve Earle Intro) Only Prettier Kerosene Famous In a Small Town Small Town Saturday Night (Hal Ketchum) Dead Flowers More Like Her Heart Like Mine New Strings Hillbilly Highway (Steve Earle) Rock & Roll Hootchie Koo (Rick Derringer) The House That Built Me White Liar That's the Way the World Goes Round I Love Rock & Roll (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts) Gunpowder & Lead