Miranda Lambert at Xcel Energy Center, 10/11/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson

Miranda Lambert
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Friday, October 11, 2013

Miranda Lambert excels at what Kool Moe Dee used to call "sticking to themes," and the video intro she's whipped up for her current tour lays those themes out with a stylish lack of ambiguity. First, a clip of Lisa Davis singing "Oh you can't trust a man/ Cause a man will lie/ But a gun stays beside you/ Till the day you die," from the 1957 cowgirl revenge B-Western The Dalton Girls. Then a montage of women, mostly Hollywood gunslingers (including Betty Boop and Joan Crawford) and country singers (Patsy, Dolly, Reba), set to Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)." Lambert sings about women, she sings about guns, she sings about women with guns.

Slideshow: Miranda Lambert at Xcel Energy Center, 10/11/13

Fortunately, there are so many different kinds of women. (And so many different kinds of guns.) Lambert's opening song, "Fastest Girl in Town," introduced us to one kind of gal: a sexy outlaw who invites some dim, serviceable slice of beefcake along for a whiskey-fueled high-speed joyride, then hooks up with the trooper who pulls them over and locks up her studly patsy. But not all Lambert's characters are nihilist hellions, and even her rebels cope with plenty of causes.

Photos by Tony Nelson

The women Lambert sang about, sang as, and sang for Friday night at the Xcel were more likely to justify, apologize for, or seek to understand their rough edges. Their anthem is Lambert's "Heart Like Mine," in which the singer accepts her faults rather than flaunting them, reassuring herself that Jesus, wine-drinking pal of the imperfect that he was, would totally have kicked it with her, tattoos and the occasional cigarette notwithstanding.

A third-place finisher on Nashville Star a decade ago, Lambert is now country music's biggest female hitmaker who isn't named Carrie. (Just so long as we agree that the one named Taylor isn't really country anymore now, is she?) Lambert and husband Blake Shelton preside over Nashville as a far friskier first couple than Tim McGraw and Faith Hill ever were, and she's affiliated with a slew of funny, feisty, and (unforgivably) far less commercially successful women singer and songwriters -- Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, Ashley Monroe, her own side-project the Pistol Annies -- who are in but not wholly of Nashville, out to crash the virtual stag party that is Today's Country.

Though Lambert made her name as a songwriter, her albums have also cherry-picked songs from the likes of Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Fred Eaglesmith, and Allison Moorer, and her compositional taste can seem more inclined to rootsy Americana than Music Row, though her commitment to a solid backbeat and her hunger for a broad audience protect her from lapsing into folkie languor. You don't often get to hear a hockey arena sing along with a John Prine song, but the folks in my section knew all the words to "That's the Way the World Goes 'Round" when Lambert performed it -- and seemed to get more of a kick out of that song than Lambert's attempt at the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'," which never quite took flight.

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