LITTLE ROCK In the span of seven years and four albums, Texas singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert has established herself as a country superstar but with a decided difference. That difference was made plain and flat out thrilling on Friday night during her concert – the first, as Lambert herself noted, where she was the headliner -- at Verizon Arena attended by 8,621 very boisterous souls.
Kicking off the show with a video montage of strong female figures (Loretta Lynn, Oprah, Jackie Kennedy among many others), Lambert, wearing a silver-sequined cupcake dress and brandishing a pink guitar, pretty much made her own case for feminine strength. Her concert was a confident and masterful trip through her songbook. While that songbook isn’t as stuffed with hits as others, it is packed end to end with great songs.
“Kerosene,” off Lambert’s first album, and “Fastest Girl in Town,” off her latest, were the incendiary opening songs, even if the only flames were produced on the various video screens serving as a backdrop to the stage. Lambert let her music do the talking for the first 30 minutes but then started to banter a bit with the crowd. She mentioned how she had been to Arkansas several times as an opening act. She also mentioned how she had toured with Arkansas native Justin Moore who had told her about the “psycho Hog fans.” Verizon then promptly started a loud Hog call. That Lambert didn’t mention the recent unpleasantness with the departed head coach is only to her credit.
What also came clear is that Lambert has triumphed over convention Nashville wisdom, which generally tries to turn women into divas who sing songs written by others. Lambert showed off her anger, her wicked sense of humor and her common sense. The best example of this was the pairing of the heartbreaking ballad “Over You” followed immediately by “Baggage Claim,” an infectious beat-it-deadbeat number that had Verizon completely enthralled.
Opening act Jerrod Neiman dressed like a trout-fishing guide and had a fine short set highlighted by “One More Drinking Song,” a tune that pokes fun at the Nashville tradition of drinking songs while at the same time being one. On record Chris Young is pretty blah but live he was able to make his conventional Nashville tunes sound somewhat fresher. At one point, Young stopped a song to gently chide the Verizon crowd because they didn’t yell when he sang about Conway Twitty. Then he did a pretty solid Conway Twitty impression.