When Kacey Musgraves first visited our stage in 2013, she was a year into the breakthrough success brought to her by Same Trailer, Different Park, her first major label release. Now, a few years and several major awards later, the East Texas native returned on the heels of Golden Hour, an album that’s earned her even more kudos than her breakthrough. That album formed the backbone of her second ACL performance, with some of her previous gems sprinkled in along the way.
With Beatles harmonies playing over the P.A., Musgraves and her band took the stage and gently rolled into “Slow Burn,” the lushly poppy opening track to Hour. The melodic “Butterflies” followed, its affirmation of true love floating on sparsely plucked banjo, brushed drums, quiet synth and Musgraves’ rhythm guitar. “Let’s get a little bit weird, freak your neighbor out, cross a few lines,” she said, before going into “Love is a Wild Thing,” a gentle anthem proclaiming the triumph of love over hate. She kept to the new album for the sly pop tune “Velvet Elvis,” another ode to a strong relationship, before hitting up the 70s soft rock of Golden Hour’s title track and the self-explanatory “Happy & Sad.” Taking a break from the new record, Musgraves revisited Same Trailer for the placid kiss-off “Keep It to Yourself,” then it was back to the Hour for the pretty, catchy “Lonely Weekend.”
The band got a quick showcase to itself on the Santo & Johnny-like instrumental “Western J,” as Musgraves had her hair and makeup – her “Texas look,” as she earlier explained – refreshed. Then the musicians segued into “High Time,” her whistling-enhanced, countrified ode to letting stress go. After introducing her bandmates, she dedicated the “Family is Family” to “all the weird members of your family,” letting drummer Scott Quintana drive the rhythm with his spoons. “Happy Pride Month,” she then declared, “so I think we should sing this one together real loud!” It was her individuality anthem “Follow Your Arrow,” of course, and the crowd did indeed sing along at top volume, including an a cappella section all to themselves. “Space Cowboy” came next, a break-up ballad to leaven the palpable happiness powering most of the Hour songs. Musgraves ended the main set on a stool, crooning the beautiful ballad “Rainbow,” the same song that ends Golden Hour.
“Kacey! Kacey!” chanted the audience, welcoming her back. Alone onstage, she played her Grammy-winning hit “Merry Go Round,” a tribute to stifling small towns everywhere. Her band returned for a loping cover of Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon,” another crowd singalong. She and the band ended the show on the dancefloor with the disco pop of “High Horse,” Musgraves, guitarist Kyle Hurlbut and bassist Adam Keafer hoofing the show to a close. Except that it wasn’t quite over, as Musgraves decided to redo “Love is a Wild Thing,” “Family is Family” and, appropriately, “High Horse,” a situation the audience didn’t mind at all. It was an expansive, special show, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs as part of ACL’s Season 44 on your local PBS station.