KACEY MUSGRAVES/FACEBOOK | Kacey Musgraves brought down the house Jan. 24 at The Anthem with songs both old and new. Though she did not work the stage as much as she could have, her impressive sound made up for it. The evening was an exciting celebration of diversity and inclusivity, atypical of most country concerts.

Kacey Musgraves had an extremely successful 2018 with the release of her critically acclaimed fourth album “Golden Hour,” and she has shown no sign of slowing down in 2019. Already a fixture on the country scene, Musgraves has undoubtedly expanded her audience with four Grammy nominations this year, including Album of the Year.

Her sold-out Jan. 24 show at The Anthem is a testament to her ascendency. A collision of country, disco-flair, plenty of marijuana references and f-bombs, and a few “yes queens,” with a stellar voice to boot, Musgraves is hard to put in a box. However, her multifaceted image shows why she has such crossover appeal both in traditional country fans and the LGBTQ community.

The Anthem show was seated, creating a more relaxed vibe among the people waiting for the show to start. At 8 p.m. on the dot, opener Natalie Prass appeared in a shiny metallic blue 1950s-style dress, with her color-coordinated band in cobalt suits to match. The Richmond, Va. native received a warm welcome from the crowd.

Prass had a jazz-meets-vintage-pop vibe, and her band was excellent as it jammed out during the instrumental interludes. The slinky beat and flowy sound of “The Fire” especially stood out. The presentation was less about her voice as the star and more about the whole band’s cohesive sound. She explained midway through the set that she was sick, but it was not readily apparent and her airy and soft vocals seemed intentional. The last song was not particularly outstanding, sounding similar to previous tracks and but lacking their crescendo. Nonetheless, Prass and her band did an excellent job giving the crowd something to enjoy from their seats.

A little before 9:15 p.m., Musgraves and her band emerged on a white stage filled with white instruments against a red curtain, evocative of a ’50s televised musical performance. Musgraves dressed in a sparkly red mini dress and thigh-high black boots, and her band wore burgundy-brown suits and turtlenecks to match.

The show began with fog lights, and Musgraves appeared backlit with a single spotlight on her playing the acoustic guitar with only some accompaniment for “Slow Burn,” the opener of “Golden Hour.” Her voice was clear and smooth, sounding just as it does in the recorded versions of her tracks. The full band came in on the second verse as the lights came up so the audience could see her face.

After encouraging the audience to get up once the song was over, she then went into “Wonder Woman,” a midtempo track from “Golden Hour” that got the audience bopping along. However, most of the songs Musgraves performed were not uptempo dance songs. This slow trend led to a different kind of concert experience, one where instead of songs being a beat to jump to, they could be calmly soaked in and appreciated for the quality of their musical arrangements and Musgraves’ pure vocals.

Musgraves struggled with working the stage. She preferred to remain in front of the mic, often strumming her guitar or strolling calmly around stage. Some songs she sang on the raised platform where most of her band played, while others she played front and center. She did not work the sides of the stage as much as may have been expected, making her far away for some even in the first five rows. At times the stage seemed too big for Musgraves, even with all her bandmates on stage with her.

But what Musgraves lacked in physical stage presence, she certainly made up for with her room-filling vocals, as well as the casual and funny way she spoke to the crowd. Her welcome speech was warm and inclusive, beginning with “Hello, D.C., what’s up? You guys f–kin’ sold this place out. That’s crazy,” which was received with big cheers. “Yes queens, yes kings,” she continued. “I see y’all, OK, y’all turned the f–k up, I see you in your sparkles and cowboy hats even though we’re in D.C. … Are you guys ready to f–kin’ have a great time, ’cause it sounds like it,” which was again met with big whoops from the crowd.

After thanking the crowd, Musgraves acknowledged and celebrated the diversity of the audience. “I just want you guys ultimately just to have a great time and be yourselves tonight. Lookin’ around it looks like there’s you know a ton of different kinds of people in here and … I just think it’s cool that we all have common ground, and we all deserve to be in here, and we all belong in here.”

After more cheers and thanking the audience again, Musgraves moved into “Butterflies,” which she noted was the first song that she wrote when she met her husband. The song was accompanied by the reveal of a giant fan behind them reflecting the color of the lights for each song. The song featured beautiful harmonies to match the delicacy of the song, making it evident how far she could push her voice with ease.

“Merry Go Round” was a standout of the night. The audience was captivated as Musgraves sang this more traditional country song from her first album, “Same Trailer Different Park.” The darker red lighting and simple arrangement put all the focus on Musgraves, and the room was absorbed by the delicacy and nostalgia of the song and the purity of Musgraves’ vocals. The crowd knew the words when it came time for an a capella singalong; it was a truly special atmosphere to be a part of.

After a little live interlude, Musgraves started “High Time” with a bang of a powerful, rising note. Not one to shy away from talking about her drug use, Musgraves stopped midsong to note that someone handed her a lit joint at a show in Philadelphia. Fittingly, she seemed more relaxed for this song.

ANNIE GOTT/THE HOYA | Country singer Kacey Musgraves debuted her first album, “Same Trailer, Different Park,” in 2013 and has only gained popularity since. As demonstrated at her Jan. 24 show at The Anthem, Musgraves’ songs have incorporated more of a disco sound in recent years, which sets her apart from traditional country artists.

The highlight of the show was when the band came down and formed a semicircle around Musgraves to do more intimate versions of some songs. This transition started when everyone but Musgraves left the stage during “Mother,” a simple, almost interlude-length song on “Golden Hour,” which featured just a spotlight behind her on the platform. After a delicate, plucky outro from the band, it flowed into “Oh What a World,” ready for her down front. This setup highlighted how stunning the arrangements of the songs were — not stripped-down, but rather done differently to accommodate a smaller setup.

The whimsical tone of the song fit this more casual configuration, and it almost felt like Musgraves and her band were letting the audience watch a spontaneous folk jam session between friends. When they finished, the audience applauded and roared, and as she and the band took it in, the energy in the crowd built and the cheers got bigger and bigger. It was a sweet moment acknowledging the high level of musicianship at the concert.

She introduced her band with little fun facts, calling them her “road family,” and the twangy “Family Is Family” from her first album logically following. After a sweet and encouraging speech about finding love, she added about it, “It can’t be stopped even if they f–kin’ try to. Laws come around and try to stop certain people from loving each other. It’s fine because all of that will always be trumped by the positivity and love that we really all tend to have,” which elicited cheers from the audience.

This led into “Love Is a Wild Thing,” which again benefitted from the circle to give it a more folk-like and spontaneous vibe. Then, during the bridge, the stage got dark and the band members returned to their original places, and when the song came back in with the full band, it was striking.

Then came Musgraves’ fun and upbeat cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” playing into the disco part of her aesthetic. She proceeded to note that there were a “million” different kinds of people there, and that country music is not always the most inclusive, “and it’s cool to see that you guys are saying that you don’t f–kin’ care.” This made sense going into “Follow Your Arrow” from her first album, which is noted for its LGBTQ-friendly lines “Kiss lots of boys / Or kiss lots of girls / If that’s something you’re into” and “Love who you love.” The audience members cheered through their favorite parts of the chorus and sang along in a loud round of a capella.

Musgraves ended the show with her most uptempo song of the night, “High Horse,” a country song with a disco kick. There were large inflatable balls that lit up thrown into the crowd to match the playful atmosphere of the song. Her guitarist fell on the ground at one point, and Musgraves lost the song a few times because she found it so funny, but it was very endearing.

The show was a reminder that for all her glamour, Musgraves is not a country pop star; the music and musicianship come first. Her music is for relaxing and feeling good, and that was the same atmosphere for the show: warm, happy and calm, while still bringing a healthy dose of glitz and fun.

While Musgraves left some physical stage presence to be desired, the superb caliber of her voice and music, as well as her candid and playful banter with the audience, made it clear why she has the broad appeal she does. Musgraves is a talent for the ages, and she is shaping her career on her own terms. With the Grammy’s coming up, her “Slow Burn” will only keep heating up.

This article was updated Feb. 2, 2019 to reflect that “Golden Hour” is Musgraves’ fourth studio album, not second.

One Comment

  1. Check your facts: Golden Hour is her fourth studio album, not her second.

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