Country-pop star Maren Morris had two major reasons to celebrate Saturday night at the sold-out Armory in Minneapolis.
It was her first concert since winning the Country Music Association award for album of the year, for "Girl," on Wednesday. And it was her last concert this year on her Girl World Tour.
Not surprisingly, Morris was in a festive mood. She was quite chatty, a bit giddy and definitely spirited. She was clearly having a good time. The crowd of 8,400 fans — lots of girls-night-out BFFs out for a few drinks and music on a Saturday evening — seemed to be having a good time, too. They might have had a better time if Morris, an alluring singer, convincing performer and outstanding record-maker, had a few more up-tempo tunes in her repertoire.
Morris' two major-label albums are long on ballads and medium-tempo songs that are appealing on your listening device or radio (she is the most played woman on country radio this year) but don't necessarily enhance the pacing of a 90-minute concert. Especially on a Saturday night.
Still, Morris had enough personality and surprises to deliver an eminently likable show whether you're a fan of her country music or her 2018 pop smash, "The Middle," her collaboration with DJ Zedd.
On a cool November night in Minnesota, the Texas native hit the stage wearing a glowing-lime stocking cap, black sweater, blue jeans and high-heeled sandals. Consider her comfortable.
In her low-frills show, Morris shared some stories behind her songs ("I Could Use a Love Song" was the first piece she ever wrote while drunk) as well as thoughts on this first headline tour, this career-defining year, her marriage last year (and a previous relationship) and a baby boy due in March.
Morris, 29, a self-described '90s baby, pleasantly surprised with a cover of the Cardigans 1996 pop hit "Lovefool" and a lovely voice-and-acoustic-guitar rendition of "Crowded Table," a tune from her twangy new supergroup, the Highwomen. She dubbed it a song for divisive times, a call to get people together to talk.
If the Highwomen (Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Amanda Shires and Morris) are a female answer to last century's male country supergroup the Highwaymen (with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson), then Morris is one Highwoman who will not stay in her lane.
There wasn't much twang in her tunes on Saturday, not even many country sensibilities save for this year's almost-rowdy "All My Favorite People" and her 2016 Grammy-winning breakthrough hit, the concert's confetti-covered encore "My Church," in which she worships Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
While namechecking an eclectic collection of Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry, P Diddy and John Prine in other songs, Morris owes as much to Beyoncé and Adele as to Hank and Johnny.
On Saturday, the dramatic "RSVP" oozed '90s R&B and "I Wish I Was" evoked vintage Southern soul. "Second Wind" nodded to Adele, and "The Bones," Morris' current single about the foundation of a relationship, echoed Beyoncé.
What ties Morris' material together is the strength of her messages, a resilience and fortitude that feels modern and liberated, that enables her to seamlessly meld country, pop and R&B into a genre best described as Maren Morris music.
She's not the new Shania Twain or the next Taylor Swift. Maybe she's a modern-day Linda Ronstadt, a gifted singer who needs no genre.
Opening were two up-and-comers who moved to Nashville from small towns hoping to make it in country music. Hailey Whitters, from Shueyville, Iowa, delivered one winner in "Ten Year Town" about how it usually takes a decade to make it in Music City, but she's been there for 12 years now.
Canadian Tenille Townes, from Grande Prairie, Alberta, impressed on the breakup ballad "I Kept the Roses," and "Somebody's Daughter," about imagining who that panhandler on the corner might be.