By Guest Contributor @CiarasCountry
Kacey Musgraves is probably the artist that I listen to most these days, so you’d best believe that I was going to trek halfway across London to see her perform at Wembley Arena for the London leg of her Oh, What A World Tour.
Proceedings kicked off ahead of schedule with opening act Soccer Mommy, who I thought was an interesting choice given that she would certainly not be regarded as country, but more indie/emo style with downbeat lyrics and groovy guitar beats that you can imagine moping around your room to.
The band, led by lead singer Sophie played a number of tracks from new record Clean including Last Girl, about wishing you were like his ex, Your Dog, which seemed to be the one members of the crowd were most familiar with, Cool (as in ‘I wanna be that cool’), and Scorpio Rising. Perhaps not the type of songs to hype you up, but she made sure there was at least one song in there that we’d know by producing a cover of Bruce Spingsteen’sI’m On Fire, although this slowed-down version was quite unlike what we would have heard before.
Personally, not exactly my cup of tea and perhaps suited to a tour where the main act is the same style of music. Having said that, if the aim was to bring along a talented songwriter, with Kacey also fitting into that bucket, then I believe this goal was achieved – whilst sad lyrics, they certainly had meaning behind them.
We had a bit of a wait before the main act, but the tension was palpable – any time a song on the speakers ended, the crowd would cheer in hope that this would be the start. All of a sudden, the lights shut out and were brought back up again, illuminating the large metal fans at the back of the stage and Kacey in front of them as the opening bars of Slow Burn began. I really appreciated this as the first track of the set given that it is also the first track of latest album Golden Hour – a very fitting start to the show.
For an arena tour, the setup was not too hi-tech with only coloured lights and the very occasional video played on the big screens. The theme seemed to be rainbow, with Kacey dressed in a beautiful sequined rainbow jumpsuit and lit up every now and then with rainbow lights as she launched into one of my favourite tracks from Golden Hour, Wonder Woman. It was at this point, two songs in, that the whole arena took to their feet in almost a Mexican wave style. We’d stayed reserved for one song, and that was enough. If you want heartfelt songwriting, look no further: “I can show you strong, I can fight for you / I can try to move mountains if you want me to / But baby, I ain’t Wonder Woman.”
It was at this point that she greeted the crowd and I was pleased at just how personable she was given that she looks quite stoic and calm whilst singing. She exclaimed about how excited she was to have first played in London six years ago whilst opening for Lady Antebellum, had then played the Royal Albert Hall, and was now doing an arena tour, encouraging us to ‘turn up’ tonight, as if we needed to be told!
Most of the tracks were from Golden Hour with their groovy 70s and 80s inspired vibes like Butterflies and Lonely Weekend, but she managed to slip some older songs in there. These included an updated electro-style version of Keep It To Yourself – again, I love the lyrics in this song with lines like “If you think that you still love me / Put it on a shelf / If you’re looking for someone / Make it someone else / When you’re drunk / And it’s late / And you’re missing me like hell / Keep it to yourself,” so it was wonderful to hear it live. We were also treated to a stripped back version of initial hit Merry Go Round, and the ever so fun High Time.
Every so often, she would pause to let the crowd sing alone with every word crisp and clear – Kacey fans are diehard and would happily have sang the whole gig by themselves. It was interesting to hear how the songs changed when played live as opposed to on the record, for instance Golden Hour started with a Latin-influenced intro; whilst Die Fun’s final notes were stretched out to allow for a mini set change.
We delved into the softer songs at this point with interlude track Mother and tour name inspo Oh, What A World. After this, Kacey stopped to introduce the band, saying “I would love to tell you who I’ve got up here with me and take a minute to recognise I have a kickass band and crew.” This is clearly someone who doesn’t take her fame and the people who have helped her along the way for granted.
In the second half of the show, I felt that she gave more time to introduce the songs as they came, including a song about ‘all the weirdass people in my family’ (Family Is Family), how we live in a very weird time in both the US and UK but that she is hopeful for the future (Love Is A Wild Thing), and about enjoying taking covers and making them her own (Somewhere Only We Know), for which she brought our lead singer of Keane, Tom Chaplin. They were clearly big admirers of each other’s talent, so this was a lovely moment to watch.
It was in the next song, Velvet Elvis, that I felt like the fun Kacey was well and truly released as she danced along to the song, playing it up for the camera. Looking around, it was lovely to see that everyone was having the time of their lives (their were some well and truly enviable dance moves displayed by members of the audience). The next song seemed particularly apt as Kacey prefaced Happy & Sad by saying it was inspired by that feeling of being happy in such a wonderful moment but sad at the prospect that it would soon have to come to an end – exactly as I felt in that moment.
Space Cowboy and Follow Your Arrow ended the main set after which a few people began to leave clearly not aware that an encore was still to come, but I knew the show wouldn’t be over until we heard High Horse. After a few moments, Kacey returned to the stage, asking if we wanted a few more songs, and if so good, she had 35 more to play and we’d all be missing the train home, she hoped we’d brought our sleeping bags. If only that were the truth, and we had to settle with just three more.
She began the encore perched atop a stool with the ballady Rainbow before turning up the heat for a cover of *NSYNC’s Tearin’ Up My Heart with Soccer Mommy, complete with 90’s boy band style dancing. One of the women sitting next to me near about lost her mind at this point – country queen covering boy band royalty? Amazing. We finished with the brilliant High Horse. I was secretly hoping for huge blow up beach balls like we’d had at C2C, but just the fact that we’d been treated to such a great show was good enough for me, and I left happily thinking about the next tour. BRB, booking tickets to see her on the rest of the UK leg!