A giant fractured rainbow glow projected above the sold-out crowd at Jacobs Pavilion last night as the tiny silhouette of Kacey Musgraves emerged on stage. With a guitar casually slung over her oversized denim jacket, Musgraves set the tone of the evening with “Slow Burn,” the first track off her Grammy-winning album Golden Hour
A sleepy, slightly haunted melody, the song provided a sonic feeling of prolonged contentment. The track feels like the perfect album closer, which is exactly why Musgraves has said she chose it to begin the album instead. Musgraves has this sneaky brilliance, like she knows exactly what is expected of her, and she delivers it but not in a traditional manner.
You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
She insists she’s no superhero in her next song “Wonder Woman,” a song that begged to be disbelieved as she stood there looking like the long lost love child of Linda Carter, her straight jet black hair falling long and free while she sang about only being human.
The stage itself was anything but ordinary with big orbs that lowered and lifted throughout the evening, serving as multi-colored lightbulbs that casted the perfect lighting on Musgraves and her band. Her band members dressed in rust-colored coveralls, and all were easy on the eyes guys with messy hair and giant smiles. The lot of them looked so tickled to be there, to be with the crowd, to be in this time and this place.
Musgraves addressed the crowd, asking all of us to leave our cares at the door. This was to be a night of no worries, no anxieties, just pure, visceral living. She pointed out basic things that we often take for granted, like we all woke up breathing and are all existing together at the same time on this planet, and she just looked so happy to be invited to the party. This joy was infectious, and you could almost feel personal stresses evaporating into the fog machine clouds above us.
“Butterflies” and “Lonely Weekend” were sweet sing-alongs. “Happy & Sad” could be the personal theme song of Musgraves herself. It was a track she sung with hopeful melancholy about feeling so happy that it kind of makes you sad. It’s about how perhaps all happy moments being bittersweet because they are destined to end, and we all know this, so the sadness sort of melts in with the happy and the happy with the sad, opposite emotions dissolving into one heavy organism living on top of your chest.
Musgraves prefaced “Merry Go Round” by saying it is about growing up in Texas, but that it could easily be about growing up in Ohio, a song about small town living, of societal expectations of church, marriage, and life paths already being decided for you. A snippet into rural American life, the song is less of a rebellion against that lifestyle and more of an homage to her roots and the people she will always love. This rolled into her love song to marijuana, “High Time,” off her debut album Pageant Material
Musgraves is a vocal advocate for the benefits of mind-altering substances. She spotted what she thought is a joint in the crowd and giggled out a “puff puff pass” chant. Someone in the pit offered her a hit off a joint, which she declined, saying she’s at work and if she hit it, she would probably just lay on the ground. It is in these types of moments where Musgraves’ charm shines brightest, her goofiness and self-deprecation endearing and relatable.
She transformed into a goddess songbird during “Golden Hour” as she radiated auburn hues and channeled the already sleeping sun. Musgraves has openly said in interviews that she wrote her latest album while tripping on acid on her front porch with her husband, and you could believe it as she transcended onto hidden wavelengths, singing of light and happiness, of seeing the world as a vibrating canvas for her eyes and your eyes. The lights on stage swirled and expanded and contracted, moving like ripples on top of a lake, the effect becoming larger than life as giant boats drifted along the Cuyahoga River behind the stage. At one point, Musgraves exclaimed, “That’s a big boat!” as one extremely large vessel sailed by, honking its horn as a hello to the crowd.
The intimacy deepened as her band circled around her with various instruments like banjos and guitars to accompany her for “Mother” and the emotional climax of the night, an acoustic, contemplative rendition of “Oh, What a World.” Musgraves continued to marvel at the beauty of life, of never wanting to leave and of finding those people that make life even more beautiful. Musgraves said she never thought that love would ever happen for her, and that she never wrote a love song until she met her husband because she just didn’t feel it, and she didn’t want to fake it. But meeting him inspired her to write “Love is a Wild Thing.”
Musgraves had her Pricilla Presley moment during “Velvet Elvis,” personifying a relic of the past and showcasing her love of vintage '60s style, the texture and pop culture dripping off her echoing voice. She stood there looking modern with her leopard bandage dress and white sneakers, but her hair and voice a throwback to those Elvis days, her face even resembling Elvis with her dark serious eyebrows and heartbreak hotel smile. But Musgraves has no desire to get her own heart broken during “Space Cowboy,” a clever play on words about releasing someone to ride off into their own sunset, refusing to beg them to stay.
Self-empowerment anthems “Follow Your Arrow” and “Rainbow” ended the evening on good vibes and good times, and closer “High Horse” had everyone on their feet. Musgraves instructed everyone to “fucking jump” and fucking jump they did as the disco country pumped into the air, and the Queen of Sweetheart Psychedelia picked her denim jacket off the ground, dangled it over her shoulder and winked goodnight, a disappearing space cowgirl.
British country singer Yola opened the show. Her strong voice had crowd members turning their heads and giving Yola their full attention. Yola recently released her debut album Walk Through Fire, and she performed several tracks from it, including standout hits “Ride Out In the Country” and the beautiful, minor chord heavy “Faraway Look.” Yola stunned the crowd with a powerful cover of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”
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