Kacey Musgraves at Riviera Theatre (Chicago, IL – Sept 27, 2014)
Chicago’ Riviera Theatre has seen better days. Three years shy of its 100th birthday, the one-time jewel of the Uptown Theatre District looks its age, with painting peeling off ceilings and walls, arm rests torn off seats, and seats ripped.
Last Saturday night, though, Kacey Musgraves and her band of troubadours rolled into Chicago and transformed the stage of the aging theater into a West Texas desert, replete with neon cactuses. From the first notes of the her opening song, “Silver Lining,” she turned the Riviera itself into a raucous dance hall. Riding in on the justifiably high praise for her latest album, Same Trailer Different Park, Musgraves strode onstage following her band, which had already assembled in their sparkling nudie suits, with rhinestones replaced by twinkling electric lights. From the first notes of her opening song, “Silver Lining,” Musgraves led her band through its paces, weaving her supple vocals around the pedal steel’s opening vibrato and floating her canny lyrics above the twinkling and shuffling guitars. With a knowing nod-and-wink, she crooned her tongue-in-cheek message to the crowd, which was already singing along:
If you’re even gonna find a silver lining
It’s gotta be a cloudy day
If you wanna fill your bottle up with lightning
You’re gonna have to stand in the rain.
From there, Musgraves led the crowd, which never sat down, on a journey through the lives of ordinary men and women living with the daily hypocrisies in small-town America (“Follow Your Arrow”), the loves and loss of men and women searching and groping to savor a relationship that lasts beyond the moment (“Miss You”), the coming-to-terms with the shortcomings of daily life and the aching desire to overcome them and the realization that it will never happen (“Blowin’ Smoke”), and the ever-shifting—sometimes exhilarating, sometimes addictive—and fast-paced, whirling nature of everyday life (“Merry Go Round”). Musgraves introduced at least one new song, “High Time,” telling the crowd that she was anxious to start writing again once this tour is finished. Musgraves’ set included one song by her favorite singer, Dolly Parton, “Here You Come Again,” and her version would have made Dolly proud.
Musgraves came back on stage alone with her guitar for the first song of what turned into a four-song encore. Noticing a fan in the audience holding a sign that said “Biscuits,” Musgraves perched on her stool and played her song of the same name. After telling the crowd that she hadn’t played the song in a while, she launched into her hilarious tune about the nosiness of neighbors and folks minding their own biscuits; she followed up with an acoustic version of her song, “Tea,” then left the stage for moment as she donned her own electric light boots, and her band rejoined her, for a kick-ass version of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’.” Laying aside their instruments, she and the band gathered around the mike for an a cappella version of “Happy Trails” as they bid farewell to the crowd.
The now-popular duo, John & Jacob, whose song “Be My Girl” appears on ABC’s Nashville, opened the show with their stomping power pop. They combined the harmonies of the Hollies and the Everly Brothers with the frantic playing of garage rockers as they drove quickly through their set of originals, now available on their eponymous EP. An earnest duo with some powerful lyrics and tunes, the band regrettably suffered through a terrible sound mix which obscured the quality of their music.
Photo credit: Haley Carrigan