About an hour into her set, Miranda Lambert told the sold-out crowd at Infinite Energy Arena, “I’m trying to be on a mission to make you feel all the feels.”
And with that, she stood alone in a spotlight with her acoustic guitar for the aching, “Tin Man” (“If you ever felt one breaking, you’d never want a heart.”), a delicate ballad nominated for a pair of Grammy Awards at next weekend’s ceremony.
That moment, along with an earlier empathetic delivery of “The House That Built Me,” exposed Lambert at her most vulnerable, a space she willingly enters even though you can sense the emotional drain that results from performing the songs live.
Her Saturday night visit to the Atlanta area was the third show of her “Livin’ Like Hippies” tour, a 24-date zigzag across the country before Lambert joins Little Big Town for a summer pairing.
Throughout her 90-minute performance, the reigning Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year bopped from rousing uptempo offerings - a zippy take on John Prine’s “That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round” opened the show - to slow burners including “Vice,” which she began a capella.
The five video panels looming behind her topnotch seven-piece band and backup singer beamed images of highway signs – including an Atlanta insert – during “Highway Vagabond” and melted into menacing crimson for “Gunpowder & Lead,” which found Lambert giving a vocal performance worthy of Reba McEntire’s “Fancy.”
Lambert, 34, is an adorable spitfire, and it’s her unpredictability coupled with obvious authenticity that makes her so appealing.
“Mama’s Broken Heart” (a 2013 gem from the ace team of Brandy Clark/Kacey Musgraves/Shane McAnally) veered from coquettish to everyone-take-cover ferocity in the span of a couple of minutes – and Lambert sold both traits with verve.
She punctuated “Kerosene” with hand claps and stomps of her pink boots, extracted the metaphorical insight of “Bathroom Sink” with knowing glances and sideways smiles and performed the snare drum-powered “Ugly Lights” with equal parts humor and pathos (“I wear my sadness like a souvenir”). And while her pronounced twang sounded in fine form all night, Lambert’s voice soared on the seesawing chorus of “All Kinds of Kinds.”
She also invited opener Brent Cobb – a native of Ellaville – onstage to sing his song, “Old S***,” a relatable tune Lambert said moved her the first time she heard it.
Whether swinging through the fan favorite “Pink Sunglasses,” with serrated guitar strokes from her band, or jerking the tears from “Over You,” Lambert was never anything less than sincere.
Also opening for her was Jon Pardi, who took the stage to Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero,” an instant indication of how much his music intersects country and rock.
During his 45-minute set, the baby-faced California native in a red and black plaid shirt (his “Georgia colors,” he said, to a response of dog barks), rolled through “Paycheck,” “Up All Night” and “Heartache on the Dance Floor” with clinical professionalism.
Pardi isn’t particularly distinctive in song or voice, but his easy charm and solid rock-tinged twangers are serviceable and pleasant.
Pardi’s affinity for classic rock was evident on “All Time High,” and he incited some singalongs with his two No. 1 “boot” songs – “Head Over Boots” and “Dirt on My Boots.”
“Let’s have a good time tonight, get drunk and everybody be friendly!” he suggested – and the crowd seemed happy to oblige.