Pop

Kacey Musgraves Is For Everyone

When Kacey Musgraves last performed in Los Angeles, it was for a pair of hot summer nights in 2019 at the Greek at the height of her run for the 2018 masterpiece Golden Hour. She had already let her eyelids flutter uncontrollably upon winning the Grammy for Album Of The Year, already yelled “I didn’t say f*ckin’ yee” at a Coachella audience, and already turned a primarily country career into something far greater and genre-defiant. I took my parents, both in their 70s, to one of those shows and though they had a nice time, they were a little taken aback the artist they loved from Same Trailer, Different Park was now inciting boozed-up Friday night shout alongs that were so loud, it was hard to actually hear the artist. Still, in less-Covidy times, they would have likely been at The Crypt on Sunday night for Kacey’s turn as an arena headliner.

Topping the biggest venues of her career, this run for Star-Crossed is the execution of a fully-rounded and carefully thought-out vision. This is a divorce album that was released last year to more muted praise than her previous triumph (though, it certainly has its advocates and still wound up in the top 50 of the Uproxx Music Critics Poll), and it’s not neccesarily the most celebratory material. But you wouldn’t know if from the show. Over the course of 90 minutes, Musgraves went from singing in front of a flaming heart to incorporating mirror balls, lasers, Dolly Parton covers, and glowing bracelets. The set mostly stuck to her last two albums (“day ones” only got “Merry Go ‘Round” and probably would have appreciated a couple more nods to her beginnings), and it all sounded pristine, particularly with Musgraves’ near-flawless vocal delivery. It wasn’t a pop-star arena tour that mean redefining who she is — there weren’t boot-wearing back-up dancers or satellite stages — but, rather, Kacey proved that this songwriting-forward music can still connect in the largest of rooms.

Before her closing song, “Rainbow,” Musgraves tapped into the why of it all. For a show like hers to work on this scale, the welcoming appeal has to extend to all in attendance. She noted that no matter where someone was seated in the venue, who they were or where they came from, they mattered. But even without explicitly stating it, it wasn’t hard to look around and see that people from a wide variety of backgrounds were in attendance and loving what they experienced. The olds (myself included) let their years show from behind their masks, while a 21st birthday celebration was acknowledged from the stage by nearly letting a young woman choose the night’s cover song (“Killing Me Softly” was overuled by Kacey in favor of “9-5”). The crowd was about as racially diverse as you’ll ever see at a country-leaning concert, and of course, queer fans were given tons of shine, as Musgraves’ long-standing advocacy for them has earned her an honorary icon status. Even her openers, Muna and King Princess, spoke to the show’s inclusive nature, with both identifying as queer artists and Muna offering up racial diversity in their lineup (both were predictably very good, particularly Muna, who might have been the best-recieved first of three I’ve ever witnessed).

In a time when Nashville feels to be at a tipping point with how they treat both gender and race (not to mention sexuality, which feels like it has barely begun to be reckoned with in mainstream country), Kacey Musgraves offers up a counterpoint that puts her at odds with the system — Star-Crossed wasn’t even up for consideration as a country album at this year’s Grammys. Musgraves isn’t perfect on this either — an early set comment about the night’s previous show in Oakland being “ratchet” felt inappropriate, and her decision both on the album and live to cover the iconic Chilean “Gracias a la Vida” has found some questioning the choice — but even those with the best of intentions are going to need to stumble and learn as they create their vision of how concerts should look and feel. And coming out of pandemic to a world that often feels more divided than ever, concerts like Kacey’s are the antidote to doom scrolls and Twitter feuds and everything else that exhausts us. For this night at least, Kacey Musgraves was for everyone.

Setlist:
star-crossed
good wife
cherry blossom
simple times
breadwinner
Golden Hour
Butterflies
Lonely Weekend
Space Cowboy
High Horse
camera roll
hookup scene
Merry Go ‘Round
9 to 5 (Dolly Parton cover)
justified
there is a light
Gracias a la vida (Violeta Parra cover)

Encore:
Slow Burn
Rainbow

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