Musgraves flitted through genres – a bit of samba here, a bit of tango there – and curated a wonderful setlist that catered to the newfound fans borne of her Golden Hour-era.
Bahamas, aka Alfie Jurvanen, brought some crisp folk to the stage while flocks of fluorescent fans poured into St Kilda’s Palais Theatre on Tuesday night. Backed by a drum kit and bass, Jurvanen’s presence filled the room with his airy falsetto and clean hooks, and his endearing Canadian banter was garnering big laughs by the end of his clean and lovely set.
The lights dimmed at exactly 9:10pm and the crowd – previously reserved and wholesome – became a chorus of banshees as our lord and saviour Kacey Musgraves seemingly floated into the centre of the stage wearing her signature duo of towering heels and jumpsuit (see: denim). She remained a silhouette as the opening bars of ‘Slow Burn’ filled the room, and we were off.
Acid-esque graphics floated around the screen projected behind the stage, and the unexpectedly crisp but playful imagery matched the music perfectly. Musgraves’ set, though slightly rigid due to the nature of such well-produced and layered pop-country, was exactly what you’d expect: heaps and heaps of fun. Groups of friends would often pop up for a boog as soon as their favourite tune filled the room, and dancing in the aisles was encouraged by rounds of cheers from those around.
The band was spread far and wide across the stage – the six-piece were split between two levels by a staircase that Musgraves ascended and descended with choreographed ease. Though aesthetically edgy, the stage setup seemed to create a slightly wooden atmosphere amongst the band – the sheer distance between each of them made spontaneous communication virtually impossible. Midway through the set, however, the stage was reshuffled and all the bandmates sat in a semi-circle around Musgraves; the synth was swapped out for a banjo and a double bass somehow snuck on without anyone noticing. This was an intimate setup that allowed the heavier country songs, such as ‘Merry Go ‘Round’ and ‘High Time’, to really peak.
This formation not only showed the packed theatre just how far Musgraves’ sound has come in the past five years, but also displayed a group of incredibly talented musicians having fun on a stage in front of hundreds of people while expertly dipping into a genre most patrons seemed hardly accustomed to. If she had a dollar for every time someone said, “I don’t like country but I love Kacey Musgraves”, Musgraves would never have to sell another ticket.
Musgraves, with her Texan accent and sharp wit, was the perfect match for a jazzed up and banterous Aussie crowd. She held her own, and even owned up to having refused to do a shoey while performing in Sydney. Determined to right her own wrongs, one of the stage crew carried out a (half-full) bottle of tequila and a sparkly clear heel about halfway through the set. Once she’d done the deed, the rest of the band passed the tequila around the circle (for quality assurance, surely).
Musgraves then called out a fan who’d tweeted they’d put a huntsman in her bed if she didn’t play their favourite song. With obviously little choice in the matter, Musgraves subsequently played ‘It Is What It Is’ (“but only ‘cause you threatened me”).
Whether Musgraves was singing about dealing with one’s family, exes who were terrible for your mental health but great for your songwriting, or Mary from two doors down, each anecdote hit all the way home.
It would be a crime, however, to understate the sheer musical prowess exhibited by Musgraves throughout the entire 1.5-hour set. Musgraves, who has been touring for almost a year-and-a-half, did not leave the stage for longer than a 20-second touch-up for the entire show. Her voice never faltered – if anything, she occasionally overshot her vocal projection and pierced the microphone, but that’s surely a good problem to have as a full-time touring musician.
Her history as a young yodeller may have prepped her sturdy voice, but the technical proficiency and knowledge that she’s honed over the years was amazing to behold. She flitted through genres – a bit of samba here, a bit of tango there – and curated a wonderful setlist that catered to the newfound fans borne of her Golden Hour-era while also satiating the more die-hard fans hailing from all the way back to Same Trailer Different Park.
In presence and performance alike, Musgraves seemed to be everything her fans wanted and more. In touch with each person in the room, she controlled the atmosphere with a lovingly commanding hand. As such, leaving the room was bittersweet; everyone seemed reluctant to leave the tender feel of The Palais, reluctant to step back into reality. Is there a word for when you’re happy and sad at the same time?
Highlight: The tequila shoey out of a Cinderella-esque sparkly heel – eat your heart out, Sydney.
Lowlight: When she likened the entirety of Australia to Texas – “Only in the good ways!” – Nah, you can’t take that back, Kacey.
Crowd Favourite: Close tie between ‘High Horse’ and ‘Merry Go ‘Round’.