How do you top winning Album Of The Year at the Grammys just a couple days earlier? Well, a high ponytail, red sparkly dress, an incredible light show — along with surprise guests like her own husband — helped Kacey Musgraves do just that at a pair of shows in Los Angeles late last week. Even though tickets to these sold out shows were already coveted, Sunday night made them the hottest commodity of 2019 so far — and the crowd who showed up reflected a certain understanding of what they were about to see. This performance, Valentines Day 2019, was going to be historic. And Kacey did not disappoint. Not even a little bit.
Kicking off the show with “Slow Burn,” the perfect lead-off from her latest, hugely decorated album Golden Hour — which we called a masterpiece when it came out, won our critic’s poll, and came in at No. 2 on our best albums list — Kacey kept the lights dark until mid-song, flaring them up in conjunction with the song’s advice on taking things slow. “I’m gonna do it my way, it’ll be alright,” she sang, and it was easy to project a renewed sense of confidence in those lyrics, a self-prophecy that she’d fulfilled, days before.
Sticking with Golden Hour tracks for the first five songs on the setlist, Kacey ran through the surprisingly moving, disco-leaning “Wonder Woman,” the stunning, loved-up first single from the album “Butterflies,” into “Lonely Weekend” and “Happy And Sad,” flexing her versatility on those last two bluer songs. By the time she finally hit an older cut, her much-celebrated (and also Grammy-winning) Same Trailer, Different Park single “Merry Go Round” from 2013, the crowd was more than warmed up. They were eager to sing every lyric, proof that these were the crew who had been with Kacey from the beginning and had always known the superstar she would become.
Kacey let her vocals drop for the whole last chorus of the song, and the crowd carried it toward the end, clearly having an impact on the woman who wrote it — and on each other. I got chills hearing that many voices join in an anthem of yearning and acceptance of life’s constant ups and downs, sharing and supporting the feeling as a community. And that’s the kind of spirit Kacey brings to a crowd at her show, as she shared an anecdote a short while later about how many messages she gets from fans who came alone and made friends at her shows, or who found solace in other crowd members when the most needed it. There is a sense that Kacey’s own open-hearted personality carries into her music, and connects with similar-minded people, who then show up and perpetuate the whole cycle.
After hitting a few more tracks off Golden Hour like “High Time,” the title track, an extended psychedelic smash version of “Mother,” and the tour’s namesake track “Oh, What A World” — along with a few Pageant Material standouts like “Die Fun” and Family Is Family” — Kacey brought out some family of her own, welcoming husband Ruston Kelly onstage for a special Valentine’s Day duet. The couple absolutely glowed with newlywed energy, joining their voices together in a cover of Johnny Cash’s “To June This Morning,” which they’d recorded for a 2018 tribute to Cash, Johnny Cash: Forever Words. Still, their chemistry onstage and musically seems like argument enough for them to release some more joint material in the near future.
After Kelly left, Kacey introduced her band, which was one of the only low moments of the night considering every single member of the group aside from her was a man. I can’t go without saying the six-piece white, male band Kacey presented to the crowd was a bit disheartening. Not that they weren’t fabulous players, but given everything Kacey represents for women in country, it was disappointing to see that, onstage at least, that doesn’t stretch much farther than her own role. Are there no female steel guitarists or cellists in Nashville? Levity for this, perhaps, can be taken in the incredibly opening act, Soccer Mommy, a brand new indie band out of Nashville fronted by 20-year-old Sophie Allison, who later joined Kacey for a light-hearted cover of NSYNC’s “Tearing Up My Heart” — complete with the two doing boyband dance moves.
It’s hard to differentiate in quality when it comes to the songs on Golden Hour, since they’re all great in their own way, but the back half of the set included my favorites: the sweetly dismissive kiss-off, “Space Cowboy,” another iconic deep cut, “Follow Your Arrow,” and her gorgeous latest single “Rainbow,” along with the disco romps “Velvet Elvis” and “High Horse” as a final, stunning closer. At the end of the night, as the lights went up, the crowd mingled out together laughing and sighing and humming that final number, content in the knowledge that they had witnessed one of the most important women in country music’s long history deliver another jaw-dropping set. And this time, she did it with the acknowledgment she’s always deserved from the industry she’s slowly but surely working to change.