If Country Music is King in Kentucky, Rupp Arena is it’s Palace. Kentucky’s Queen will always be Loretta Lynn, but on Friday, the Palace got a visit from a Princess. As Miranda Lambert brought her “Livin’ Like Hippies” Tour to Lexington. In tow where Jon Pardi and The Steel Wheels.
The cool thing about a Country show at Rupp Arena is there’s usually a pre-show concert in the lobby of Heritage Hall, near the food court. Just so happens, some old friends were playing the Austin City Sound Stage on Friday. Scott Said & Backroads don’t really need an introduction around here, they’ve long been considered one of the premier cover bands around. Traffic was an issue for me, so I didn’t have enough time to get see my friends, but I did hear a couple songs in the lobby. So if you’re attending a country show at Rupp, I highly recommend you get there early and check out some local talent. Lexington is absolutely loaded right now and I wish that 98.1 The Bull, WBUL would pay more attention to local artists.
It may have been pretty chilly outside of Rupp, but inside, the music was on fire. First up were The Steel Woods. If you haven’t heard of these guys yet, you should definitely remedy that. Rolling Stone included them in their May 2017 article of 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know. Usually, Rolling Stone is not a go-to source for me, but at least they got this one right. A blind squirrel does indeed find a nut on occasion, I reckon.
This wasn’t my first time seeing these guys. I saw them open for Blackberry Smoke in Glasgow early last year, even before the album release. I was blown away by their Southern-fried version of the Black Sabbath classic, “Hole In The Sky”. I immediately bought their EP and I’ve been hooked ever since. If you’re still on the fence about checking them out, Jason “Rowdy” Cope plays guitar in The Steel Woods. He was a long-time guitarist for Jamey Johnson and helped write several hits.
Their set was brief, but oh so powerful. Twenty-five minutes just wasn’t enough for me to get my fix. Highlights for me were “Axe”, “Better In The Fall” and “Let The Rain Come Down”.
Next up was Jon Pardi. Now I’ll admit that when it comes to country radio stars of today, I’m way behind. Part of it is the more pop-leaning country that is played so much, the other part is I just don’t have the time for commercials, so I never tune in. I prefer Spotify, which customizes what is played based on my preferences. Why does that matter? Well, because I didn’t think I was very familiar with Jon Pardi’s music. Turns out, I knew many more songs than I realized.
I’m definitely more of a traditional country guy on a personal level. Give me some Outlaw Country or Americana like Kentuckian’s Tyler Childers or Sturgill Simpson and I’m right at home. Jon Pardi is definitely isn’t similar to either of those artists, but he is an artist that knows who he is and how to entertain. I have said over and over that I appreciate talent and Jon Pardi is loaded with it.
His set was very high-energy and the ladies in attendance were definitely interested in his performance. I found myself humming along a few times and I really enjoyed how well he worked the crowd. I came away with a lot of respect for Jon and I’ll definitely be paying more attention moving forward.
Highlights for me included “Paycheck”, “Heartache On The Dance Floor”, his newest single “She Ain’t In It”, “Head Over Boots” and of course the massive hit, “Dirt On My Boots”.
It was now time for the Princess to enter the Palace. Miranda Lambert took to the Rupp Arena stage to a HUGE ovation. Her appeal was immediately evident. Young girls were screaming, ladies were singing along and many of the guys were getting elbowed to shut their gaping mouths. Miranda was at home and these were definitely her people.
Miranda is the perfect female country star. Please allow me to explain. Sure she’s an attractive lady that has a very distinctive voice, but she is the total package. Her tone has an innocent Southern Belle vibe the way she turns words and phrases, but in the same breath, she isn’t afraid to be flirtatious or sexy. She is a very confident lady and with plenty of reasons to be. She does tons of charity work. She inspires young ladies to chase their dreams. The ladies love her often positive messages, as well as her “I’ll kick your a$$” side. The guys love her confidence and her obvious beauty. Every single one of those traits were on full-display onstage.
Miranda sang songs that spanned her entire career and delivered a really cool set for Lexington. There were several really cool moments, but none more awesome than when Kentucky’s own Angeleena Presley took the stage. Miranda was joined by Angeleena and Ashley Monroe. Together they are known as the Pistol Annie’s. I had a hunch that Angeleena may be in attendance, because she hosted an event at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg the night before. She is from nearby Martin Country. I had no idea that Ashley would be there though. Really it makes a lot of sense, especially once you find out that Miranda has promised that the Pistol Annie’s will be releasing a new album this year. The gals performed two songs together, “Hell On Heels” and “Takin’ Pills” and let me just say that their harmonies were incredible. If you haven’t heard of Angeleena before now, make sure and check out her album ‘Wrangled’ that she released last year. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Give her track “Pain Pills” from her debut below. You may even recognize another Kentucky voice in the background. It’s none other than Mr. Chris Stapleton.
Another cool Kentucky moment happened during her cover of the Joe Walsh classic, “Rocky Mountain Way”. Miranda took a little time to introduce her band and the crowd exploded as she announced Lexington, KY’s own Charlie Crowe. Charlie is most known for his stints with Brooks And Dunn. He was a guitar tech on Miranda’s ‘Platinum’ tour back in 2014 and now he’s sharing the spotlight with his boss. Yet another awesome bit of Kentucky trivia for ya!
Of course, Miranda won my heart immediately upon taking the stage as she opened with her own version of one of my favorite John Prine songs, “That’s The Way The World Goes ‘Round”. As Miranda herself stated that she wants you to feel every emotion possible at her shows, she did her best to make sure that happened. “The House That Built Me” was a beautiful moment that saw many fans waving their cell phones as flashlights, which have replaced cigarette lighters in today’s digital world. She ramped up the energy with performances of “Kersone”, “Gunpowder And Lead” and “Ugly Lights”.
My favorite moment, was easily her performance of her hit “Tin Man”. She prefaced the song, which she performed alone with her acoustic, by saying how 2015 was a really $hitty year. Hinting at her much-publicized break-up from Blake Shelton. It was the culmination of an artist being incredibly open, honest and vulnerable and it was perfect. Thankfully, she has moved on and has a new beau in Anderson East. If you follow this site, you’ll know that I boldly stated that Anderson East is the best voice that I’ve ever experienced live. (He’s coming to Manchester Music Hall in Lexington on 4/17 by the way.)
Miranda closed out the night with an encore performance of her massive hit, “Little Red Wagon”. She came, she saw, she kicked ass and for that I’m very thankful, as were the near-capacity crowd. If you enjoy a good time, Miranda Lambert can deliver. Check her out on this tour if she comes close to ya.