Country singer Miranda Lambert is not going to be one of those well-behaved women who rarely makes history.
Before the curtain dropped at Baltimore’s First Mariner Arena on Thursday night, Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” was pumping through the PA system alongside a video montage of famous fearless women.
Lambert’s rowdy opening salvo, “Fastest Girl In Town,” was a perfect thematic threefer: cars, guns and booze. She sang into a shotgun-shaped microphone stand and played a pink Stratocaster. On the midtempo rocker “Heart Like Mine,” she imagined wine as the slender basis for mutuality with Jesus. “I’m proud to be everything but a Southern belle,” she later declared.
The redneck chanteuse: To some unknowable extent it’s pure shtick, but it matters not. She does it so well.
In fact, the flattest moment of Thursday’s 90-minute came as Lambert abandoned her persona and tried to go high-concept on the slow-jamming “Fine Tune.” With the video-screens having faded to black-and-white, Lambert picked up an antique microphone and retired to a fainting couch like some weary Hollywood goddess.
She quickly shook off the misfire with a breezy cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic “Up Around The Bend.”
Lambert’s voice is rather on the petite side; infectious though they are, songs like “Kerosene,” with its slashing guitars and martial drumbeat, easily overwhelmed her.
It was no wonder, then, that Lambert made ample time for introspective ballads such as “More Like Her” and “Over You.” The latter, originally written in honor of husband Blake Shelton’s late brother but re-dedicated to his recently deceased father, was doubly layered with personal tragedy.
An unflaggingly energetic audience—limited though it was to the arena’s first and floor levels—seemed especially drawn to “The House That Built Me,” Lambert’s nostalgic tale of character formation.
The hit single “Baggage Claim” found Lambert’s sweet spot. Its taut, mildly funky groove gave her space to unleash her inner Beyonce, and its woman-scorned lyric was hungrily devoured. As if to underscore the point, Lambert fashioned Tom Petty’s “You’re A Free Girl Now” into her own anthem.
For an encore, Lambert assayed Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.”
So don’t let the tattoos and shotguns fool you: Lambert may act like a spitfire, but she’s full of soul.