Miranda Lambert continued her “Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars” Tour at John Paul Jones Arena Thursday night, backed by several notable acts. Her performance at JPJ featured Maren Morris, Pistol Annies and Tenille Townes. This performance was notable both in the ways that the acts differed — spanning different decades, with different highlights and weaknesses — but stood unified by true musical talent in a show highlighting female skill and ease.
Take Maren Morris, for example. Morris’ act brought a young, poised energy to the stage, blending rock guitar riffs with country themes and pop beats for popular crowd-pleasing warm ups. Morris successfully engaged older viewers in a wave of nostalgia with her song “80’s Mercedes,” had younger audience members throwing their hands up in the air for her rendition of Zedd’s “The Middle” and incorporated the swanky confidence of country with songs “Rich” and “My Church.” At times, her opening act felt long or distracted purely because of the huge range of musical styles Morris attempted to tackle, but at the center of it all was a young and bright energy that captivated her audience.
If Morris’ opener had more tenuous highs and lows, Miranda Lambert’s main act was a steady and dependable knockout. It is easy to downplay the musician because of her genre in a musical era that prefers straight folk or pop to country, from which Lambert unapologetically does not deviate. However, it became impossible to forget by even the fourth song — an oldie but a goodie, “Famous in a Small Town” — that Lambert has earned two Grammy awards and seven CMA Female Vocalist of the Year awards.
Lambert is a powerhouse in her genre, and this show highlighted that she’s a decidedly feminine powerhouse in her genre as well. Her early songs in the set included “Locomotive,” “It All Comes Out in the Wash” and “Bluebird” — all unified in the unshakeable confidence with which Lambert delivered them, as well as her stories of love, family and identity central to each lyric. Although Lambert gave a relatively low energy performance, it remained enjoyable because of her seasoned talent and comfort on the stage.
Then, Lambert brought out the rest of the Pistol Annies — her original trio band of nearly a decade — and the audience quite simply lost its mind. Their first album was released in 2011, and it took roughly twenty seconds of fellow band members Angelina Pressley and Ashley Monroe joining the stage to be reminded why they remain relevant in country music today. They played the usual tongue-in-cheek favorites like “Hush Hush” and “Got My Name Changed Back,” and the 2018 track “Best Years of My Life” was just as poignant live.
Threaded throughout the show were small moments of banter that hinted at a decades-long friendship spanning multiple marriages, divorce, children and tours — and the result was a performance that seemed to empower without necessarily trying too hard at it.
Whether it was Morris’ open discussion of her pregnancy and marriage, Lambert donning an old-fashioned washing board to add a touch of silliness to “Got My Name Changed Back” or the campy dancing back and forth of the Pistol Annies across the stage, the show maintained a unified sense of femininity that created comfort for the audience without examining the implications of it.
This wasn’t necessarily a feminist show — their lyrics, genres and live performance styles can’t be boxed into that — but it was a show designed to make women in the audience feel comfortable, regardless of their particular music taste. If you’re a woman who has made mistakes, knows how to laugh at herself and has a life as complex as anyone’s, the women of Roadside Bars & Pink Guitars know exactly how you feel, and they’re singing to you.