Miranda Lambert is in a classic famous-person conundrum: She built her reputation on being an outsider, yet is now firmly entrenched with the in-crowd.
Lambert launched her career as Nashville’s newest female outlaw, a young woman who waited by the front door with a shotgun to confront an abusive partner. Now, she’s a tabloid-cover celebrity as half of country music’s reigning power couple, as well as a member of another successful musical trio. In her own concerts, however, there’s no sign of this transformation — Lambert sticks to her past as the wild, everyday-girl-gone-bad image that made her famous.
To use a magazine metaphor, Lambert goes the more relatable “Stars — They’re Just Like Us!” route, rather the glitzy multiple-page wedding spread in which she appeared with her reality show star husband, fellow country singer Blake Shelton.
“I’m just an East Texas girl who used to sing into a hairbrush,” Lambert, 29, told the thousands of people at Jiffy Lube Live on Sunday night. “I never thought I’d get to be on a stage this big.”
True to form, Lambert played it safe as she operated on her two known speeds: sassy and solemn. She switched repeatedly between the two during the frenetically paced 90-minute show, primarily while positioned behind her pink guitar or bedazzled microphone. Mostly going with high-voltage tunes, she went back to her days as a fire-starting troublemaker (“Kerosene,” “White Liar”), only running into trouble with some vocal missteps that contained awkward, shouted phrasing.
Through it all, her underlying, self-declared “girl power” theme ran deep, from the trivial matters all the way to the deadly serious. “There is never an excuse for a man to beat up on a woman — that’s why I carry around a shotgun. Here we go, girls,” she announced during the introduction to “Gunpowder & Lead.”
Lambert’s strong twang was most powerful during slower moments, though, including emotional performances of the Grammy-winning “The House That Built Me,” and “Over You,” the song she co-wrote with Shelton about the death of his brother.
Meanwhile, there was one sign that Lambert senses she may need to pass the troublemaking torch sooner rather than later. She raved about her opener and protege, 19-year-old RaeLynn, dubbed a “mini-Miranda” when she was one of Shelton’s mentees on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice.” As an official endorsement, Lambert brought RaeLynn onstage mid-concert for a cover of Maroon 5’s “Wake Up Call” — naturally, keeping the NBC synergy intact with a nod to fellow “Voice” judge Adam Levine.
These days, Lambert still tries to relive the past with rowdy songs (“Fastest Girl in Town,” “Mama’s Broken Heart”) while remaining in character as an outcast (“I ain’t the girl you bring home to Mama,” she warns on “Heart Like Mine”). But Lambert is most engaging when she puts down the matches and rifle and focuses on the next step of her evolution, which is represented by her newest single, the biting “All Kinds of Kinds,” about inner demons that ultimately shape a person.
As Lambert introduced the song, she gave the audience some Real Talk, perhaps remembering that she needed to relate to the everyday fans. She simply encouraged them to never give up. “It took a lot of hard work, and it took a lot of not listening to people who are idiots,” she said of her career.
Lambert smiled at the screaming crowd as she paced the stage. “No matter what you look like, if you’re tall or short, skinny or if you have a little extra like me,” she laughed as she smoothed her sparkly miniskirt, looking exactly as she appears on the magazine covers. “Follow your dreams.”