With seven of her last eight singles cracking the Top 10 on the Billboard country charts, Miranda Lambert is one of Nashville's most consistent hit makers, churning out polished pop anthems which lean more southern rock than pure honky-tonk. If you look closely at the numbers, however, you notice something amiss. While the Texas native is known for her vengeful and fiery ex-lover machismo, her trio of number one singles ("House That Built Me," "Heart Like Mine," and "Over You") are thoughtful ballads about memories, family and deceased friends.
That her kerosene-drenched rockers have yet to reach the summit of the charts speaks to how archaic much of the male-dominated Music City scene remains, but it's also a testament to how deceptively un-Nashville Lambert is. Though she's twangy and likes to mount bucks on her wall, her music is also feisty and free-wheeling, elements painfully absent from much of her respective genre.
Though she wears her country starlet clothing rather nicely, underneath is a smart songwriter who has penned, or co-penned, almost all of her best material, allowing her to be as independent as she damn well pleases.
And it was her individualism which permeated much of her career-spanning set Friday night at Klipsch Music Center. Setting the tone early, Lambert entered the stage to Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)" as a montage of famous ladies flashed on the video screens. From there she stomped into the opening "Fastest Girl in Town," where she ditched her boy for the cop that pulled her over.
Lambert's man-hating ways are well documented, at least musically. Peppered throughout her set were scorned singles like "Baggage Claim," in which Mr. Sensitive Ego finds his luggage strewn about the yard, and "Gunpowder and Lead," Lambert's breakout song about disabusing abuse with a loaded shotgun. "When I was 11-years-old my daddy taught me two things," she told the audience. "How to shoot a deer, and that it's never OK for a man to hit a woman."
Yet, behind her proud feminism is a happily married Mrs. Blake Shelton. Not to imply she's a hypocrite - only a fool would claim such things. If anything, her relationship adds layers to her persona and makes her a more interesting cultural figure. Lambert can play sexy and fierce, but also vulnerable and earnest, as she did on "Over You," a lament co-written with her hubby about his brother's death in an auto accident. Lost in the humor and gunfire of her more instantaneous hits is the fact Lambert is more than a capable vocalist, with chops to pull off grandiose downers as well.
Such duality and color was absent for opening act Dierks Bentley, a country cornball with zero charisma. Inoffensive in subject matter and bland in vocal gusto, Bentley's 14-song set name checked typical tropes - girls, trucks, beer, fame - without a lick of humor, charm or wit. A byproduct of Nashville's obsession with the worst facets of arena rock, his stunted, shallow drawl could barely swim with the sound of his cookie cutter backup band. His music was every bit as calculated as Lambert's was lively. So lively, in fact, she had the cajones to the cover The Beatles' "Get Back," a nod from one expert songwriter to a pair of musical titans.