It wasn’t hard to figure out if Miranda Lambert was excited about Thursday’s show at American Airlines Center.
All anyone needed was one glance at her Twitter feed.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>This is the biggest Honky Tonk I've ever played in Texas! See yall tonight Dallas!… <a href="https://t.co/s0EfZs1lHr">https://t.co/s0EfZs1lHr</a></p>— Miranda Lambert (@mirandalambert) <a href="https://twitter.com/mirandalambert/status/576033897366089728">March 12, 2015</a></blockquote>
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That holy-crap-I-can’t-believe-I’m-playing-an-arena-near-my-hometown moment was a clear reminder that, for all of the accolades, fame and fortune that has lifted the Lindale native from reality television also-ran to one of country music’s unquestioned superstars, Miranda Lambert still wigs out like the rest of us would, if we suddenly found ourselves facing several thousand screaming fans.
“I was really nervous, but I’m better now,” the 31-year-old explained midway through Thursday’s stop on her “Certified Platinum” tour, yet another sell-out for the hometown heroine, who spoke of her long ago gigs in Deep Ellum at the Gypsy Tea Room and Adair’s.
Her grounded, approachable personality, along with a willingness to make fans an integral part of the concert — the video screen was plastered, more than once, with video and photos of her die-hard Ran Fans — connects her with modern Nashville’s fan service ethos, but also reminds those paying for seats that, well, she was once like them.
Lambert also still attacks her catalog with as much gusto as she did when wasn’t yet selling out arenas, pulling from all phases of her confident catalog, from the double-fisted upstart (Kerosene still kicks, as does Gunpowder and Lead) to the insurgent singer-songwriter, giving 21st century country music some much-needed spine (Mama’s Broken Heart; Little Red Wagon; Dead Flowers).
Her ace band, which, unusually, for a star of her caliber, hasn’t suffered much turnover as her career has progressed — Fort Worth’s Aden Bubeck still holds down the low end; Scotty Wray, still clad in sunglasses, fires off guitar licks — was crisp throughout the 90-minute set, scarcely missing a note.
While she is still a down-to-earth daughter of Texas, Lambert does have something no one else does: the ability to turn and summon her husband, Blake Shelton, to the stage for a tender duet.
“You guys have no idea — or maybe you do — what a big night this is for Miranda,” Shelton said. “She’s the most important artist in country music, in my opinion.”
Seated on stools, and almost buried alive beneath the sound of an audience losing its collective mind — Shelton made a cameo five years ago, when Lambert sold out Billy Bob’s Texas for the first time — the pair sang Shelton’s 2001 single Austin, their voices blending seamlessly, eyes occasionally locking and ending it all with a tender smooch.
It was an utterly endearing moment, even if it did underscore the almost fairy tale ascent from east Texas to the top of country music.
Lambert’s clearly mindful of that narrative, which driven home most powerfully during Famous in a Small Town.
As the song progressed, footage from Lambert’s early years — fairs and festivals from way back in 2001 — played on the enormous video screen behind her, only to smash cut to live video of her performing during the chorus.
That leap in time, from a teenager working open mics to the Grammy-winning superstar wiping away tears as a room of devoted fans sang her songs back to her, spoke so much louder than anyone could ever yell — or tweet.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713