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Live Review: Kacey Musgraves @ the Olympia Theatre

Adam Lawler reviews a glittering and effortless show from country's brightest star.

It’s clear from before Kacey Musgraves even comes on stage that she could unite the world. A quick look around the gathered audience, some decked out in glittering cowboy hats, shows that it’s split neatly down the middle between older people who (as we all know from Garth Brooks-gate) love country music, and younger people, who just love Kacey Musgraves.

And why wouldn’t they? She is country’s progressive and generous monarch who drops acid, supports the LGBTQ+ community, and just reached her creative peak with the sublime Golden Hour. All of these elements coalesce into the collective scream as she floats onstage. She starts with album opener “Slow Burn”, easing the audience into her rich live sound which sounds transplanted from the album’s gorgeous soundscape, and when she gets to “Butterflies”, that’s when the show really takes off. Musgraves gives a plaintive and gorgeous performance but just has to stop suddenly to hear the audience bellowing every word back to her, something she evidently didn’t anticipate over this side of the Atlantic. This gives the show a reverent and communal feel that Musgraves obviously feeds off with her charming banter and moments that are obviously meant as audience catnip, furtive sips of a Guinness et al. 

“It’s clear from before Kacey Musgraves even comes on stage that she could unite the world”

This is especially true as she dips into some cuts from her first album Same Trailer, Different Park like “Keep it to Yourself” and “Merry Go ‘Round”, still keenly-rendered vignettes which the audience sings back to her with a wide-eyed affection. A lounge-y instrumental leads into “High Time”, while she strips the title track of Golden Hour to sultry acoustic guitar and makes “Die Fun” into a thrilling, squealing electric guitar climax.

Musgraves knows how to keep things interesting, and this is no more apparent than when her band gathers at the front of the stage to play a set of instruments including cello, double bass and a tiny piano for a warm mini set-within-a-set. The wonder of “Oh What A World” is heightened by the unique and muted instrumentation and “It Is What It Is” is woozily gorgeous. When the band take up their original instruments to make the second half of “Love Is A Wild Thing” explode into a glowing synth sunset, Musgraves’ vision jumps out. She’s grown, she’s endlessly talented, and she wants to make you feel good. 

“She refracts the sense of appreciation and self-awareness of the gathered crowd”

Musgraves is one of those artists whose impact on Ireland is impossible to gauge until seen live, and the audience really came through. She refracts the sense of appreciation and self-awareness of the gathered crowd in her obvious gratitude and the stories she tells about trekking through Dublin with a group of random locals in search of a curling iron before her 2012 show supporting Lady Antebellum. By the time she gets to the unreasonably affecting piano ballad “Rainbow” and the barnstorming country-disco finale of “High Horse”, an encore that’s imbued decidedly with an undercurrent of gay defiance even as she talks up her husband, you can’t help but think of the lyrics to “Golden Hour”; Dublin caught Kacey Musgraves at the right time, and all it wanted was for her to keep us in her glow.

Kacey Musgraves played:

Slow Burn
Wonder Woman
Butterflies
Lonely Weekend
Keep it to Yourself
Merry Go Round
High Time
Golden Hour
Die Fun
Mother
Oh What A World
Family is Family
It is What It Is
Love is a Wild Thing
Velvet Elvis
Space Cowboy
Follow Your Arrow

Encore

Rainbow
Tearin’ Up My Heart (N*SYNC cover w/ Soccer Mommy)
High Horse