The Tivoli crowd screamed like teenagers as US country megastar Kacey Musgraves opened with ‘Slow Burn’: “Born in a hurry – always late – haven’t been early since 88” – the first song on her Grammy winning album ‘Golden Hour’. From the get-go, with no audience participation encouraged, this smoky song was chanted word for word by fans in the sold out concert. And this welcoming warmth and devotion never shifted, it was ‘Karaoke Kacey’ all night in the beautiful art deco clad theatre, warmed up with the cruisey tunes of three-piece Canadian support band, Bahamas.
The ‘Wonder Woman’ chill-out rhythms then directed the crowd through this curated American songbook of genre-pushing country hits – including Musgraves strumming her acoustic guitar to radio favourite ‘Butterflies’ and ‘Merry-go-round’ with the banjo intro receiving a huge holler and cheer. Musgraves paused and took note of this genuine audience reaction. With raised eyebrows looking to her banjo player she said in her Texan tones, “Well we have some banjo fans here tonight!”
The red velvet back curtain dropped, and the lighting dimmed when band roadies set up in seconds a campfire like setting with instrumentalists huddled around the Musgrave fire. The acoustic tracks of the night included the lap pedal steel dedication ‘Mother’ with Musgraves on acoustic guitar and the Dynlanesque ‘Love is a Wild Thing’ with its sprinkling of “flowers in the concrete” poetic phrases dutifully accompanied by banjo arpeggios. Eyes and ears were certainly in awe of Musgraves’ killer six-piece band – many of whom wrote and played on the ‘Golden Hour’ album. Seeing them up close was a chance for those instrumentals, sounding somewhat subdued on the record to finally pop and shine along with Musgrave’s ironic and economic lyrics. We feasted on the musicianship of her pick of US professionals; a dedicated pedal steel player giving us our hit of Americana, a pianist, the heavenly banjo, a cellist playing whirling dervish folk like rhythms, delicate drumming polished with the upright bass and dusted off with steel string guitar finishes – sonically sublime.
A tip for any instrumentalist who plays on a stage is to dress up – look to this band with their dress style (we probably have Musgraves to thank for her sartorial direction), the band members, all multi-instrumentalists looked professional and slick in their matching 70’s style fitted brown suits spruced with a skivvy. Luckily Brissy turned on a cool autumnal breeze preventing them sweltering in the usual blasts of humidity!
Synths and purple haze inspired lighting signalled the final run of pop styled song hits. The visual video production of ‘Velvet Elvis’ and helpings of steel string guitar on ‘Space Cowboy’ was followed with the arm waving anthem ‘Follow Your Arrow’ from her launch album ‘Same Trailer Different Park’. The retro-charged crowd rocked with the backdrop of psychedelic video production and sparkling earth spinning disco balls to ‘High Horse’ to finish our Friday night.
Musgrave’s beauty, Texan charm and the way she connects with her band and this crowd was mesmerizing. When we next see her in Australia it may not be in a historic intimate theatre fitting eight hundred people but perhaps one fit for thousands. The US country star’s final message as she exited stage left was “We hope you had a bad-ass time!” Having sold out in Sydney, Musgraves’ ‘Oh What a World’ tour will stop in Melbourne, Auckland, Tokyo and Shanghai before she frocks up for the Governors Ball in New York City and plays a dozen sold out shows from Las Vegas to New Orleans.