Little Big Town And Kacey Musgraves Take Manhattan

Written by February 13th, 2013 at 11:12 am
LITTLE BIG TOWN

LITTLE BIG TOWN

Little Big Town And Kacey Musgraves at Irving Plaza
New York, NY 2/12/13

“I know this is New York, but do you guys have trailer parks out here?” Kacey Musgraves pondered, before leading into her opening set for Little Big Town last night at Irving Plaza. It was a question worth asking for Musgraves, a small town songwriter fascinated with tight spaces and sprawling freedom. The Texas singer squeezed ten songs into her forty minute set, an indication of her tight formalism as a Nashville songwriter. Her songs are about confined slackers and time-wasting locals, and Musgraves tells their stories with a straight-faced, cold humor.

On the verge of her anticipated debut album Same Trailer, Different Park, Musgraves was poised, guided by a clear confidence in her material, as she worked through the mid-tempo highlights “Silver Lining” and “Follow Your Arrow.” She sang songs she had given to others, like Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart,” and songs she had taken on for herself, including a loose, barstool take on Ryan Adams’ “To Be Young.” Musgraves, who self-released her first album at the age of fourteen, is no stranger to the stage, coming across less ecstatic than relieved to be finally playing big rooms. Her voice, understated and undemanding, showed its range and precision during “It Is What It Is,” a song about lonely companionship and bored sex. Like the lovers in “It Is What It Is,” Musgraves’ trailer-park country is devoid of melodrama and cheap pathos. She is instead hooked on crafted wordplay and observation, exposing the drudgery and small pleasantries of unglamorous life in small towns. Musgraves bookended her set with songs about trailer parks, beginning her set with the sad confinement of “Go Back To Your Trailer” before ending on a different, sweeter note. “If I can’t bring you to my house, I’ll bring my house to you” she sings on “My Home,” where owning a trailer means only the freedom to escape the same limits and confinement the same trailers end up creating.

KACEY MUSGRAVES

KACEY MUSGRAVES

Little Big Town opened their headlining set with another declarative statement: “Everything stops where the pavement ends,” the vocal group sang in its opening song. “Pavement Ends” does a good job summing up Little Big Town’s music, a polished, rural vaguery (or as the group puts it, that “Front Porch Thing”) that tends to lack the type of gritty focus and narrative wit that Musgraves so effortlessly tosses around. Little Big Town’s performance was a well-oiled, shiny take on harmony-based pop country. The group rushed, uninspired, through the radio-friendly “On Fire Tonight” but slowed down, enjoying the refreshing bit of conflict in “Shut Up Train.” Mostly, though, Little Big Town took comfort in the shiny veneer of its textbook harmonies.

The four core members of Little Big Town come close to being exclusively an all-vocal group with a backing band. The group was happy use its voices as the only instrument on “Can’t Go Back” and even happier transforming into a college accapella group of sorts during their covers medley. During their grammy winning single “Pontoon,” Little Big Town hinted at the vivid specifics of what actually might take place beyond the pavment. Both Kacey Musgraves and Little Big Town are primarily traditionalists, a point proved by the reserved, middle-aged crowd at Irving Plaza. But on Tuesday night, Musgraves’ pot-smoking, church-skipping, trailer park claustrophobia pressured, enriched, and fortified the Nashville boundaries and conventions that Little Big Town works so very hard to merely maintain.

Kacey Musgraves:
Go Back To Your Trailer
Step Off
Silver Lining
Mama’s Broken Heart
Follow Your Arrow
Undermine
It Is What It Is
To Be Young (Ryan Adams)
Merry Go Round
My Home

Little Big Town:
Pavement Ends
Little White Church
On Fire Tonight
Bring It On Home
Sober
Front Porch Thing
Bones
Your Side Of The Bed
Leavin’ In Your Eyes
The Chain (Fleetwood Mac)
Can’t Go Back
Grenade (Bruno Mars)/Moves Like Jagger (Maroon 5)/Born This Way (Lady Gaga)/Some Nights (fun.)
Shut Up Train
A Little More You
Good As Gone
Self Made
Pontoon

Encore:
Tornado
Boondocks

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