Country crooner Kacey Musgraves chose to end her enchanting Oh, What a World tour right here in NYC for two sold out shows at the legendary Radio City Music Hall. Things have really changed for this trailblazing singer in the last year, especially as her third album, Golden Hour, did what few country artists’ albums had ever achieved – it won a Grammy for Album of the Year. This album blends pop, funk and psychedelic elements mix with her beloved offbeat Texas twang. She has been racking up copious accolades, massive sales, and tons of new fans since its release last year. Since then, she has been riding that success for all it’s worth with almost continuous touring that has already brought her to the Big Apple many times. I actually caught her at the beginning of this year at Beacon Theatre for a pair of sold out shows there, and although the show was quite similar, with the same band and many of the same songs, it was quite obvious that the Grammy win has gifted her with a lot more clout to expand the show a bit and much more money to throw into a stunning stage show that made the experience all that more amazing.
Opening the show was the countryfied indie pop duo Lucius, who originally got their start on the Brooklyn scene over a decade ago. They have also experienced a boom of success and acclaim recently with a greater commercial zeal. The pairing of singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig creates an ethereal harmony that is sure to mesmerize. I last saw them as they sang on Roger Waters’ last tour Us + Them at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Arena, and their take on the jazzy operatic Pink Floyd classic “The Great Gig In The Sky” was nothing short of heavenly. Their new album NUDES has abandoned their distinctive dance-friendly beats and synthy new wave sounds and gone for a more stripped-down acoustic style with quirky covers, reworkings of previously recorded songs, and even a couple new tracks. Their set took on more of that bare-basic appeal with a smoky cabaret charm complete with a neon sign of their band name hoisted high on velvet curtains behind them as they sang face-to-face into the same mic. Their mash-up of the hit “Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain” and Prince’s “Purple Rain“ was a truly sublime experience.
Kacey Musgraves is no stranger to NYC, as it was five years ago when on the very same stage she opened for Alison Krauss and fellow 420-friendly country singer Willie Nelson. I even saw her play at Brooklyn’s McCarren Park in 2016 for a free Northside Fest show where only a couple hundred people at most showed up, and yet her set left me floored. Her backing band is still one of the finest in the industry, and they clearly all have a close-knit family manner. Pedal steel guitarist Smokin’ Brett Resnick, who is also known for his sly palm skimming for the likes of Kelsey Waldon and Cale Tyson, was particularly awe-striking. The band is headed up by the ringer master multi-instrumentalist Kyle Ryan, and executed devotedly by drummer Scott Quintana, bassist Adam Keafer, killer guitarist Kai Welch, and sensational keyboardist and cellist Nathaniel Smith.
She played most of her big hits like “Slow Burn,” “Butterflies,” “Merry Go Round,” “Golden Hour,” “Follow Your Arrow,” “Rainbow,” and of course “High Horse” as the closer. As they have done on the last couple times I’ve seen her, the show starts with Kacey backlit and playing solo, then they go into several hits, a few more deeper cuts, then the band all comes together and played an acoustic set midway through the show, then they kicked it in with the full band at the end of the show. This time around there was a lot more set flourishes, like animated video work, confetti cannons, and a laser light show. Somewhere in the middle of it all, she went into a rant how she never used to write love songs, but two years ago she got married, and now they just seem natural, as her hubby Ruston Kelly came out to duet with her on their song based on a Johnny Cash poem called “To June This Morning.” Honestly, Ruston seemed a bit gruff on stage, and he kind of reminded me of the grizzled latter-stage Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born. In one of the more stunning moments of the night, disco queen Gloria Gaynor came on stage to duet on the classic “I Will Survive” to the absolute glee, a song Kacey had sang with Natalie Prass last time I saw her. It was a grand way to end such a massively successful tour, and returning to where it began felt all that more special. It is clear that Kacey Musgrave’s star has only begun to soar higher, and I can’t wait to see the places she will go…
Article: Dean Keim