Live Review: Kacey Musgraves Brings Country, Community and Comedy To Radio City

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– Radio City Musgraves Hall
Kacey Musgraves performs at the first of two sold-out Radio City Music Hall concerts on Oct. 15.

Kacey Musgraves
Radio City Music Hall
New York, N.Y.
October 16, 2019

The Democratic primary has heated up in recent weeks, but a platform of a different kind reigned supreme at New York’s Radio City Music Hall Wednesday.

“I see that the yee-haw agenda has spread to New York City!” an ebullient Kacey Musgraves told her second sold-out Radio City crowd in as many nights.

Who hasn’t the ascendant pop-country queen welcomed into her wide tent – early in the set, she urged fans to “put aside all the bullshit” of the outside world for the evening – during her mammoth 2019?

Eighteen months ago, she warmed the Radio City stage for headliners Little Big Town, and in January she played to 5,551 over two sold-out nights uptown at the Beacon Theatre – about the same amount she played to each night at the 6,000-capacity Radio City this week.

She’s done it on the back of her star-making, psychedelic third album Golden Hour, which took home Album of the Year at the Grammys in February, but Musgraves’ shows have also played a crucial role, giving audiences from the country, pop, rock and electronic worlds a place to commune with one of the most engaging live performers currently touring.

The key facet of Musgraves’ appeal, which she’s impressively maintained even as her audiences have grown exponentially, is relatability. At Radio City, Musgraves deployed futuristic lasers, high-tech lighting rigs and plenty of confetti for disco-country grand finale “High Horse,” which felt almost like a Flaming Lips show in its colorful chaos. But that was all just window dressing for her core musical offering, which foregrounds the universal aspects of love and community – not just the good parts – and marries those ruminations with indelible melodies. The Radio City audience responded in kind, turning tracks like opener “Slow Burn,” “Happy & Sad” and “Space Cowboy” into venue-wide singalongs and finding camaraderie in Musgraves’ sagely anthems.

And despite the set’s focus on Golden Hour – Musgraves played all 13 of its songs – tracks from her first two sterling albums, Same Trailer Different Park and Pageant Material, also provided highlights. With the former’s reflective “Merry Go ‘Round,” Musgraves proved she’s still in touch with her small-town roots, and that her quaint early writing continues to resonate. Backed by graphics of swaying palm trees, the latter’s “High Time” provided a sublime escape from the chilly fall rain outside – and gave Musgraves’ a chance to flaunt her well-known stoner persona.

“I can’t believe not even one person is smoking weed inside of this building,” she sing-spoke before the cannabis-friendly song’s final verse. “Like not even one, kinda disappointing, somebody pass it!”

That type of humor won the night Wednesday, with Musgraves leavening her musical ennui with levity. During the set’s intimate, acoustic mid-section, where Musgraves delivered mesmerizing versions of “Oh, What A World” and “Family Is Family” backed by instruments including banjo, steel guitar and cello, one of her stilettos precariously dipped into a hole onstage. Moving the mic stand a couple feet, she deadpanned, “If you have OCD, ignore the fact that I’m not centered now.” (To maximize dancing, Musgraves ditched the stilettos entirely for “High Horse.”)

Later, Musgraves dropped her guitar pick and joked that there was “no possible way whatsoever” that she could bend down – the crowd was too close, and her sheer outfit had a bad habit of crawling up. “If you see anything lewd, you need to let me know,” she cautioned. “This is not that kind of show – or is it?” Musgraves paused for a beat. “I would’ve charged way more if you were going to see something like that!”

Whether playing the comedian, the country singer-songwriter or the dance-pop diva – near the end of the set, Musgraves busted out an ecstatic cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” – Musgraves had Radio City in the palm of her hand. And, as she has for years, she used her stage to promote a social message of equality and acceptance with “Follow Your Arrow,” the jangling, be-yourself centerpiece off her debut that becomes more salient with every passing year.

Like most of the country, Musgraves’ yee-haw agenda has indeed spread to New York City, and it shows little sign of subsiding anytime soon.