MONROE, Mich. — Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton performed their first full-length concert together on Monday night (July 28) at the Monroe County Fair in Monroe, Mich., about halfway between Detroit and Toledo, Ohio. Both artists kept up the momentum of the concert by playing two mini-sets each, with an acoustic song-swap in the middle and a big finale.
“This was just an idea and an experiment — mainly because we wanted to see each other more often,” Shelton told the crowd gathered on the inside of a dirt racetrack as well as in the grandstands. For more than two hours, the couple traded time in the spotlight, with nobody dominating the night, although Shelton might have sung a handful more songs than Lambert (but then again, he’s been around a few years longer).
Lambert launched the night with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” then immediately went into “Guilty in Here” and “Me and Charlie Talkin’.” With the people just a few feet away, she decided to sit at the edge of the catwalk and dangle her legs as she sang “Desperation,” which she introduced as “one of the favorite songs I’ve written.”
Of course, that intimate vibe only encouraged a burly Midwestern man to flash her in the middle of the song. And if Lambert saw it, she wasn’t at all fazed by it. After singing The Band’s “Up on Cripple Creek” and her own “New Strings,” she made a quick exit. Within a few seconds, Blake Shelton appeared at the top of a staircase with a beer in one hand and a microphone in the other. With one last big gulp, he tossed the can to the side and sang “The More I Drink.” I’ve always liked “Some Beach,” and if the interior of the track was sand, instead of dirt, it would have been perfect. Then he belted out a few more songs, including his new single, “Maybe She Wouldn’t Be Gone,” as well as “Goodbye Time.”
Shelton told the crowd he gets offers all the time to play shows just like this one — fairs and festivals — but that “people in Nashville” recommended that he decline taking the gig in Monroe. First of all, they told him nobody would show up on a Monday night, and “research” also indicated that he was too country for the Detroit area. Of course, the audience ate it up, especially when he shouted, “I wish to God they’d brought their asses out here because I’m looking at a crowd! No country people in Michigan? What the hell are they talkin’ about?!”
His band tore through “Cotton Pickin’ Time” before they all vanished and Lambert returned to join him on center stage. All night, the guys around me were shouting out love calls to the blonde singer, and when Shelton joined her mid-set, one guy in the crowd barked, “You lucky dog!” With both singers on stools, Lambert gently asked Shelton to sing her favorite song, “Don’t Make Me,” and in turn, Lambert took a request from Shelton to sing “Love’s Lookin’ for You.” My personal favorite was their solid rendition of the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn duet, “Feelins’.” After the last note rang out, he kissed her on top of her head and exited the stage.
But rather than taking an intermission, Lambert blasted into “Gunpowder & Lead,” which led into “Dry Town,” “Bring Me Down” and “Famous in a Small Town.” After shaking her hips for the audience — and declaring, “Personally, I’ve got a big booty and I’m proud of it!” — she tore into the Faces’ “Stay With Me” and an exuberant performance of “Kerosene.”
After that, of course, Shelton had his work cut out for him, but he rose to the occasion with “This Can’t Be Good,” “Nobody but Me,” “The Baby” (which still gets a huge response), “Playboys of the Southwestern World” and “Austin.” Digging up another oldie, he offered a satisfying take on the Bellamy Brothers’ “Redneck Girl.” (Even if you don’t know the song, you know the girl. She’s got her name written on the back of her belt.) And he couldn’t leave the stage without telling the tale of “Ol’ Red.”
Lambert and Shelton timed the concert just right because their collaboration on “Home” turned out to be the country love song of the summer. Even though the Michael Bublé hit is a relatively new song (to country audiences anyway), you could hear rows and rows of people singing with them.
Bringing both bands together onstage, they closed the night with a rousing rendition of Charlie Daniels’ “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.” Strange choice, considering they were in Michigan. But I guess that’s what experiments are for.