To experience Miranda Lambert at Klipsch Music Center last Friday night was to experience a full on rally for girl power. From the moment the country starlet appeared on stage to Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)," to the closing bars of "White Liar," one of the night's final numbers, the mostly female audience was treated to an evening of femme friendly tunes where men were pitted as the bane of existence, shotguns and pistols as the weapons of choice, gasoline as the means of exacting revenge, alcohol and pills as vices for illicit pleasure - all while pink served as the color of choice.
Festivities began with the opening "Fastest Girl in Town," a twangy rocker that rocked more than it twanged where Lambert cheerily sang about ditching her man for the cop who pulled her over, only to give up on love in "Kerosene," for the simple reason that love (probably that same cop) had given up on her.
But there was no time for self pity to be had. Lambert had far too much hell raising, and plenty more she-woman anthems to blast through.
"Heart Like Mine," with as soaring a chorus as she's ever sang, found her making no apologies for affection for wine and cigarettes, while "Only Prettier," a song so catchy you'd swear it was a pop song because it is, found her turning her contempt on women who frown upon her unrelenting sailor mouth and self-professed redneck ways.
"I like chicken fried steak, ice cold beer and my daddy taught me how to use a shotgun," Lambert later said to an eruption of cheers while hoisting up her mic stand which was jerry-rigged from a double barrel.
And used that shotgun she did on "Gunpowder and Lead," a feisty blast of angst where she told the tale of a man who learns the meaning of the word vigilantly after crossing Lambert in a bout of domestic abuse. Things worked out better for the gentleman in "Baggage Claim," as he was spared his life and his personal belongings after having his affair discovered.
But rather than saluting women through her own means, Lambert at times called on the help of others. Aside from covering Lady Gaga's "You and I," a country-pop crossover hit Faith Hill would trade her gig on NBC for, and Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," Lambert performed four songs with her just as brilliant side-project, the Pistol Annies featuring Angeleena Presley and Ashley Monroe.
Together the trio played the title track to last year's Hell on Heels, a rustic sounding checklist of the perks of being a gold digger, a cover of Loretta Lynn's "Fist City," as well as the pill-poppin' tune "Takin' Pills," where the girls waxed poetic about being poorer than punks - something I doubt anything one of them actually are.
But away from Lambert's loud-n-proud persona was a softer side that relied on memories of childhood and (gulp) men more than alcohol and rifles. And while such songs are still noteworthy in their own right, especially her Grammy winning ballad "The House that Built Me," and "Famous in a Small Town," others like "Over You," which she co-wrote with hubby Blake Shelton, simply felt routine, as just a way of covering all her bases.
Yet, such attempts at multi-dimensional branding were no where to be found for opening acts Jerrod Nieman and Chris Young, who were charming, handsome, bland and harmless. Both sets were almost interchangeable. Where Nieman preferred women with his beer, as his set-opening "Real Women Drink Beer," proved and "One More Drinking Song" made crystal clear, Young liked his women on the rocks - with a small tribute to Conway Twitty, a man responsible for the some of the lamest love songs ever, thrown in the middle of the sleazy sex song "Take It From There," for good measure.
Neither of these gentlemen were raunchy or offensive in there come-ons, (Mrs. Lambert-Shelton wouldn't allow such a thing on her tour), but their shmaltz-first-personality-second marketing shtick made their sets tedious by the time they exited the stage to their walk-off songs. Perhaps they should take a lesson from Lambert, a personality always helps, no matter how rugged. Great songs help too.