Country superstar Miranda Lambert sparkled like never before in concert Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center. And it wasn’t because she was bedecked in rhinestones — on her blouse, belt, Daisy Duke shorts, fishnet stockings, tambourine and guitar strap.
No, she dazzled with the unwavering conviction in her voice, the brilliant pacing of her show and the uplifting camaraderie of her singing friends who participated in the consistently satisfying four-hour marathon.
Lambert, 35, has never been an open personality or the kind of performer who cuts loose physically onstage. But, on record, she has been the most impressive and important female country star of the past 15 years. (Sorry, Carrie Underwood fans.)
On her eight studio albums, Lambert covers a range of emotions and styles with the twangiest and truest of voices. And she’s also recorded three standout albums with her harmony- and humor-loving side project, Pistol Annies.
Lambert seemed in great spirits on Saturday, thanks to a new album due Nov. 1 (she sang five numbers from it), her female opening acts (Ashley McBryde and Elle King) and Pistol Annies making a guest appearance in her 100-minute set.
When Annies Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley joined Lambert 30 minutes into her show, she seemed to change. She let her hair down, her body language loosened and her personality glistened.
Not that the opening segment wasn’t rewarding for the 11,000 mostly female fans. She started on fire, with the blistering rocker “Locomotive” from next month’s “Wildcard” album and tore into her kiss-off scorcher “Kerosene,” her 2005 breakthrough. She acknowledged the past with 2007’s we-can’t-escape-our-roots “Famous in a Small Town” and 2016’s ode to bad decisions, “Vice,” and promised a bright future in the bubbly current single “It All Comes Out in the Wash.”
During the six-song Annies detour, Lambert manifested a sheer joy of singing with her good friends. Between them, she said, there’s three husbands, two ex-husbands, three babies, one stepchild and 23 animals.
She forgot to mention three-part harmony, which was gorgeous on a treatment of Elvis Presley’s “Love Me” (“We all share one boyfriend,” Monroe quipped. “His name is Elvis.”).
They support one another not only vocally but also emotionally, as they demonstrated on last year’s playfully sassy, post-divorce celebration “Got My Name Changed Back.”
After the Annies exited, Lambert was in a groove, blasting “Gunpowder & Lead,” infusing attitude into “Mama’s Broken Heart,” saluting her parents in the touching “The House That Built Me” and healing her broken heart on the solo acoustic “Tin Man.”
“Tequila Does,” from the new album, sounded like a surefire hit that flips the gender script for a drinking song, and 2015’s “Little Red Wagon” found Lambert finally rocking out with loose limbs, animated facial gestures and rock-star swagger.
The only way to top that was with covers — the Linda Ronstadt PG-version of Lowell George’s “Willin’ ” (“wheat, rice and wine,” not “weed, whites and wine”) and Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” featuring Pistol Annies, King and McBryde. They weren’t performing, but singing for the pure pleasure of it.
Not only did King steal “Fooled Around,” but she owned the stage with a terrific hour of swampy blues rock. And McBryde captivated, too, with her strong twangy voice and even stronger songs about a dive bar, her one-night standards and “if you ever get tired of being happy, give me a call.”