At one point last night at 3rd & Lindsley, the five people on stage were responsible for more than two dozen No. 1 hits and two CMA Songs of the Year. Oh yeah, and one of those people was Miranda Lambert.
Lambert’s hastily announced acoustic show — a fundraiser for the scholarship program she’s establishing at Belmont for women seeking music-industry jobs — sold out in three minutes last week. It muffled some of the media drumbeat that day over her just-announced split from Blake Shelton (whose music was playing over the loudspeakers as fans filed in).
But if anyone was expecting her to cut her bangs with a rusty pair of scissors or some such, no dice: Lambert was her mama’s model of poise and generosity throughout a two-hour-plus, 24-song guitar pull that served as an appetizer for her girl-powered “Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars” tour this fall. With two male ringers, red-hot hit-minter Luke Laird and veteran artist-songwriterJon Randall, interspersed among powerhouses Jessi Alexander and Natalie Hemby, the five principals swapped a veritable Now That’s What I Call Country of decade-defining hits as Lambert sang along and nodded her approval.
Undercard acts on the fall tour (not scheduled so far for Nashville, dammit) were brought out for a spin in the spotlight, including Courtney Cole and RaeLynn, the “God Made Girls” pixie who came off as a source of perpetually renewable energy. The one who left us most eager to see an entire set was Clare Dunn, a full-throated rocker with a depth-charge strum and swaggering stage presence. She got a grin out of the women on stage when she goaded the sound man to keep upping her guitar levels, only to draw a huge laugh moments later asking sheepishly to turn it down a little.More than any one performer, though, it was the songs that drew the biggest response from a full house mixing fans in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” bling, songwriter entourages, music-biz spectators and media. Belcourt Roulette this writers pull wasn’t: the caliber of craft was so high that when the women asked Randall to take a turn, he just, oh, happened to have a 2005 CMA Song of the Year in his back pocket. And not just any Song of the Year: “Whiskey Lullaby,” the sterling Brad Paisley-Alison Krauss weeper that’s made truckers bawl in their cabs.The whole night went like that: Alexander doing “my favorite song I ever wrote,” the Shelton smash “Mine Would Be You,” in a smoky low voice that’s the best argument we ever heard for Marlboro Lights; Hemby apologetically swatting Lambert’s cuts back to her, including a jazzy, sex-soaked, bed-headed “Fine Tune”; Laird nailing his Eric Church concert staple “Give Me Back My Hometown.” Some of the loosest, best received moments of the night came from guest starKaren Fairchild, called up out of the audience. The Little Big Town vocalist joined Lambert in an appealingly breezy, relaxed duet on the Platinum cut “Smokin’ and Drinkin’,” before engaging the club in a mass sing-along of the Hemby-Laird-written blockbuster “Pontoon” — a damn good song, no matter what that boat salesman told Hemby (in an anecdote that brought down the house).
If there was any complaint, well, hell, we wanted more Miranda. If anything, she was too generous to her stagemates: she only did six or seven songs — though it’s tough to complain when they were as heart-in-throat wistful as “Dear Diamond,” or as fist-pumping as her climactic anthem “Automatic.” Even so, the night’s most memorable moment might have been its most spontaneous: when Lambert joined Fairchild in a “Girlcrush” whose aching immediacy hushed the room. Can we start a fundraiser to get a real-deal Lambert arena show in Nashville? The line starts here. In the meantime, this did just fine.