July 14th, 2014 at 9:31 am
Imagine having the No. 1 song in all of country music. Now take it one step more, and imagine having 9,000 screaming fans in front of you for a concert, then not playing that hit.
And now, imagine the greatest stretch of them all — that you got away with not playing it, too.
Sure, Miranda Lambert sort of, kind of, maybe offered up “Somethin’ Bad,” a duet with Carrie Underwood that rests atop the country charts. A video of Lambert and Underwood performing the song together played as an introduction to Lambert’s Saturday (July 12) stop at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers. Lambert walked out onstage with her large band after the video concluded and never looked back.
I can guess how difficult it would be to find a suitable substitute for Underwood’s half of the song, and maybe that’s why Lambert kept that song off the list. But the more remarkable part is that she didn’t need it. Her 21-song set, which spanned about 90 minutes on a hot summer night, included plenty of other hits. She’s had more than a half dozen country chart toppers, and they touched off appropriately wild responses. Some of the bigger moments of the night included the songs “Platinum,” which provides the title for her current tour, and “Mama’s Broken Heart,” “Automatic” and “White Liar.”
Lambert first shot to fame courtesy of the now-defunct, countrified “American Idol”-clone “Nashville Star.” She placed an amazing third (anyone seen Buddy Jewell or John Arthur Martinez recently?) in the first season. Slowly, surely, she’s continued her ascension.
I’m not sure she can continue that climb, but only because she’s at the pinnacle. The aforementioned Underwood might be her best rival, but it’s a friendly one, considering the recent collaboration. Underwood’s last album, just like Lambert’s last, topped all albums in sales the week it debuted. But in terms of current relevance, Lambert’s “Platinum” release from June of this year is having a remarkable run.
That’s to say nothing of where they fall on the country spectrum. As Underwood veers often into pop territory — a place fellow country queen Taylor Swift arguably resides permanently — Lambert remains true to her Texas roots, and not just with her voice, although that’s a dead giveaway.
She occupies an interesting space in the country music continuum, still traditionally rooted and smarter than those in the bro country scene by a clear margin. She wore a black tank top with a skull on it but sang into a pink microphone. She’s sassy, taking risks with songs such as “Old Sh!t” — that’s her spelling — and speaking her mind. She’s the kind of woman you’d want to have a beer with but wouldn’t dare anger. If her onstage rallying cries are an act, she deserves an Oscar.
One of the evening’s nicer moments, in fact, proved some of those roots. Her stout backing band put down the electric instruments and gathered around for an all-acoustic take on “Me and Charlie Talking.”
Lambert didn’t hide behind the band then, and she especially didn’t when she opened the two-song encore with a solo acoustic performance of “Makin’ Plans.”
She can make plans to stay at the top of the country music heap for some time.
A note about the openers: In a testament to the new model for music, The Swon Brothers didn’t mention album sales, which generally pale in comparison to those of just a few years ago. No, they thanked the audience for downloads, and for helping them make a splash on the iTunes country charts. The brother duo from nearby Muskogee, Okla., served up several of the songs they performed on “The Voice,” which they performed on in 2013. Among those were “Danny’s Song” by Loggins and Messina and “Fishin’ in the Dark” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Both of those are fine songs, and they suited the brother act’s range well. It didn’t work well during a cover of Boston’s “Long Time,” which was homogenized into a country-pop track and stripped of any passion.
RaeLynn, another “Voice” contestant, looks and sings her age — 20. She opened up the evening, but I was only able to catch a few of her songs. She has a solid voice, and with a few good songs, and some time working on her stage presence, she has potential. She’s got time to work on it.