Kacey Musgraves makes crossover look easier. Two-thirds of the way into her January 26th show at New York’s Beacon Theatre, the second of two sold-out nights at the venue, she gathered together her men-in-black touring band at the front of the stage. The unplugged segment has become almost de rigueur for pop acts, but Musgraves added a revealing twist. Halfway through a mountain-stream-clear version of “Love Is a Wild Thing,” her band switched back over to their electric instruments — all while they continued playing the song. Before anyone knew it, Musgraves and her band were in full plugged-in mode — literally without missing a beat.
That effortlessness, the way Musgraves places country arm-in-arm with the most atmospheric of electro beats, permeated her nearly two-hour show. With each successive record, culminating in the velvety and confident Golden Hour, Musgraves has expanded both her sonics and her fan base. The latter was particularly evident at the Beacon, where she was greeted with repeated shrieks of delight one would associate with a huge pop act. The crowd also continually sang along with her, both on Golden Hour songs and “Merry Go ‘Round” (from Same Trailer Different Park), one of the few back-catalog songs in the set.
The nearly two-hour show, about two weeks into her extensive “Oh What a World: Tour,” focused not surprisingly on Golden Hour — which is up for four Grammys, including Album of the Year. Her road band, which blended banjo and pedal steel with dual keyboards, replicated the blend of retro and chill-out sonics of tracks from that album, like “Lonely Weekend” and “Wonder Woman.”
Combined with her Grammy nods, the show and her entire tour feel like a celebratory moment for her. But as the Beacon show made clear, no one will ever call Musgraves a showboater. The show began with her standing in silhouette at stage rear, near her drummer, and there she remained during the entirety of that opening number, “Slow Burn.” Even when she moved to the front of the stage for the remainder of the show, Musgraves kept the moves to a minimum. At times, she almost seemed overwhelmed by the outpouring of audience love in her direction, and she preferred to stay close to the mic, projecting nothing but resolute strength even when a hint of a hurt throb emerged from her voice.
Her flashiest gesture was the glittery headband she wore throughout the night; like her one-piece leisure-wear outfit, it managed to be retro-Seventies stylish without making her look like an extra in Saturday Night Fever. Every so often, she would wander to one side of the stage and address the crowd, telling them they were going to have a “great fucking party” together. But the next song and determined, unflinching performance were only a beat away.
As the show went on, those firm but never-overpowering disco beats slowly built, making it perhaps inevitable when she went into a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s Studio 54 anthem “I Will Survive” (joined by Nashville singer-songwriter Natalie Prass, her opening act on the tour). But even as the rhythms grew more pronounced, Musgraves stayed focused — no choreography, no backup dancers, little in the way of projected backdrops. During a joyful, climactic version of “High Horse,” massive inflated balls descended on the audience, turning the Beacon into an indoor beach party. Musgraves shimmied along but still kept her voice and manner under control, just the way she likes it.
Full Set List
“Happy & Sad”
“Wester J – High Time”
“Love Is a Wild Thing”
“I Will Survive”