January may be a bit early to crown a “concert of the year”, but Kacey Musgraves just confidently submitted her name for consideration. With an impending blizzard knocking on the doors of Boston’s Wang Theatre, Musgraves and company were teed up for a difficult performance in a frankly unfamiliar environment. The freezing winter evening felt nothing like her home back in Texas, but the unshaken Musgraves was not about to let a little cold keep her from setting the crowd’s anticipatory hearts aflame.
If the snow-covered attendees carried in any feelings of discomfort, the night’s opener Natalie Prass put those feelings to rest as quickly as possible. Considering Prass’ extremely politicized 2018 album The Future And The Past focused heavily on the Trump administration’s divisive platform, one would expect her to align her performance with that same moralistic coercion. But with the inclusion of a 5-piece band, Prass’ modus operandi as an outspoken singer-songwriter was thrown out the door. Although the one-time Berklee College of Music dropout’s ties to the Boston were loose at best, the groovy basslines, animated percussion, and hypnotizing synths supporting her performance could have made her feel at home an virtually any city. Ironically enough, her greatest victory came when she removed every member of the band except the guitar player to perform her 2015 track “It Is You“. The song written in conjunction with Kacey Musgraves’ guitarist stripped away the active band behind Prass and exposed her for what she really is: an adept, clever songwriter who can connect with an audience on multiple emotional levels.
While Natalie Prass’ performance was welcomed and enjoyed, Kacey Musgraves introduction to the stage was downright elating. Faces lit up as the lights went down and an incredibly distinctive recording of a vocoder echoed the phrase “Oh what a world” throughout the spacious periphery of the Wang Theatre. Before the crowd could even react, Musgraves quickly transitioned from the tour’s trademark teaser into the opening track “Slow Burn“. Musgraves’ voice sounded angelic as always, but few voices could be heard singing along. It wasn’t as if the crowd were restraining themselves – they were simply speechless at the remarkable talent and live arrangement unfolding before them.
It took a few songs for the audience’s jaws to lift off the floor, but Musgraves call-back to older songs like “Merry Go ‘Round” and “Follow Your Arrow” turned the crowd into a full-fledged orchestra. The indescribable impact that Musgraves had on these concert-goers was palpable, and the counter-effect that their participation had on Musgraves was equally as touching. She changed these people’s lives, and their anthemic evidence was too special for her to put into words.
This genre-crossing darling of Nashville may put on the convincing mask of an eminent celebrity, but Kacey Musgraves still can’t hide her roots as a hard-working country songwriter. Contrary to her traditional image, the songs from her 2018 album Golden Hour represent significant change, showcasing her ability to branch off past categorical barriers that have traditionally limited country artists’ creativity and longevity. Although the live performance of Golden Hour was just as innovative and groundbreaking as its studio counterpart, you could tell her message and mannerisms were still those of a genuine, purposeful musician. She couldn’t help but highlight her upbringing in an “itty-bitty town”, her life in the south, and her lifelong ideals as a dreamer. No matter how famous she becomes, these grassroots characteristics are the marrow in her bones, inseparable from her fiber as one of the most charming country artists to come out of the past decade.
Below is a playlist of the full setlist performed between Natalie Prass and Kacey Musgraves during their 2019 trip Boston’s Wang Theatre.
Favorite Live Tracks: Oh What A World, Merry Go ‘Round, I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor cover), Follow Your Arrow, Butterflies, Rainbow