Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018

Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018Kacey Musgraves + Soccer Mommy @ O2 Academy, 28th October 2018

Some six years since her first appearance at the O2 Academy, Musgraves is “back in Beorminghum”, she earnestly declares during her first interaction with the audience. The pronunciation is spot-on and the vast room acknowledges Musgraves’ efforts with a flurry of chuckling. This time around, rather than filling the support slot, she is headlining as part of the UK stint of her ‘Oh, What A World Tour’. Though the tour budget and band personnel has grown somewhat since that last visit, Musgraves, as she was back in 2012, is armed with a collection of songs that have more than ruffled the feathers of the more conservative exponents of country music.

Musgraves’ first album, ‘Same Trailer Different Park’, though picking up numerous accolades, including a Grammy for best country album, and a CMA nomination for album of the year, contained songs like ‘Follow Your Arrow’; which heralded the right of the individual to revel in lifestyle choices that had rarely been documented in the country canon. All of which led to much criticism from the more orthodox quarters of the country community. A battle which Musgraves has found herself fighting against with the release of her stunning 2018 release, ‘Golden Hour’.

This latest release has been revered by critics, though once again, the lyrical content and effortless fusion of pop and electronica, has led to the album finding itself shunned by the so-called purveyors of the country tradition. Such was Musgraves’ exasperation with one particular critique of the album’s tempos – deemed to be so at odd’s with country music – Musgraves took it upon herself to scrutinise the number one country recordings of the last few years and proved that there was often little or no difference between the tempos of ‘Golden Hour’ and the many hits that have achieved success without the disapproving murmurings from the country elite. A minor victory, and one that will likely have fallen upon the deafest of ears.

Not that Musgraves sets out to intentionally disrupt and annoy; she is simply doing what feels right to her, following her instincts and intuition to leap free of the constraints of operating within a world that fails to draw upon the riches and inspirations that can be found elsewhere. Her refreshingly open outlook is demonstrated by the support slot for this evening’s show.

Tonight’s support comes from the glorious, Soccer Mommy. The guitar musings of Sophie Allison, soaked in 90s’ alternative rock, are a delightful contrast to proceedings. The bands performance is clearly lost upon some of those in attendance tonight, though there is an enthusiastic and gracious reception from the core of tonight’s audience. ‘Your Dog’, the sublime ‘Cool’ and a stirring cover of Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ help to whip up a genuinely enthusiastic response from the majority of the crowd. A reaction that is not lost upon Allison as she thanks the audience for being “so great to them”.

A composite of sounds is peppered upon the eager Birmingham audience between Soccer Mommy’s departure and Musgraves’ arrival. The interval playlist parades the likes of Tame Impala, Blondie and The Bee Gee’s. The upbeat music blasts from the speakers, signalling that though a Sunday evening, thing’s are going to be far from sedate.

The opening of Musgraves’ show is reminiscent of the dawning of a new day; the birth of something new. The darkness gives way to a purple dusk, shadowy figures navigate their way towards their instruments. A soaring sound emanates from a synthesiser, followed by some modulated robotic voice, the words are indecipherable. A solitary beam of light ripples its way back and forth across the stage and the first musical notes hint that ‘Slow Burn’ is imminent.

The swirling noises settle momentarily and the fleeting silence, paired with the purple hue that bathes the stage give way to a flash of sunburst.   The familiar and beguilingly dissonant chord progression of ‘Slow Burn’ can be heard as a solitary figure emerges from the rear of the stage, pausing at the mic stand situated at the top of an elevated platform towards the rear of the stage, guitar in hand, her eyelids littered with a glitter finish that shimmers across the venue.

‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Butterflies’ quickly follow; maintaining the emphasis upon the latest material from ‘Golden Hour’. Musgraves’ band sound superb, each member, dipped in black from head to toe except for the intermittent flash of silver from a bolo tie or collar tip. The band’s harmony contributions sound divine on the first three songs, but following some visible discomfort in Musgraves’ ears, the sound engineer makes some necessary tweaks to atone for the problem. Whatever change was implemented to resolve the issue results in the excellent harmonies being lost in amongst the music for the rest of the evening. Is there anything as frustrating as seeing someone singing their heart out but to no avail, as their voice is doomed to flounder well beneath the mix.

Nonetheless, Musgraves and her band completely transform the room and the audience are loving every minute of it. ‘Merry Go ‘Round’ see’s the audience, not for the first time tonight, put in an excellent stint vocally, as Musgraves regularly encourages the room to provide accompaniment. The audiences singing is actually pretty impressive, and quite moving at times, an endeavour to which Musgraves shows her appreciation by calling out just how “great…you guys sound”.

Musgraves and the band converge at the front of the stage for a more intimate portion of the show that incorporates ‘High Time’, ‘Golden Hour’ and ‘Die Fun’, the latter, sardonically described by Musgraves as “one of the country sounding ones”. The band departs the stage monetarily whilst Musgraves takes a seat on the steps leading to the gigantic fan mounted at the rear of the stage – a reference to the latest album’s artwork – here she openly discusses how her life and philosophy has informed her most recent work before performing the stunningly sparse ‘Mother’.

The band return to the stage for the epic ‘Oh, What A World’, before hurtling through ‘Family Is Family’, one of the many songs which demonstrate Musgraves incisive and often comedic lyrical ability. The encore includes ‘Rainbow’, plus a joyous cover NSYNC’s ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart’. The latter see’s Soccer Mommy’s, Allison join in on the second verse, before possibly the most obvious single from the new album, ‘High Horse’, thunders its way to the end of an epic set.

Musgraves is a true artist for sure; and it is with a great expectancy that we await her next move.

Setlist:

Slow Burn

Wonder Woman

Butterflies

Lonely Weekend

Keep It to Yourself

Merry Go ‘Round

High Time

Golden Hour

Die Fun

Mother

Oh, What a World

Family Is Family

It Is What It Is

Love Is a Wild Thing

Velvet Elvis

Happy & Sad

Space Cowboy

Follow Your Arrow

Encore:

Rainbow

Tearin’ Up My Heart

High Horse

Reviewer: Chris Curtis
Photographer: Katja Ogrin

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