Miranda Lambert’s Revolution Rattles the Ryman

Taylor Swift, Other Celebrities in the House for Singer-Songwriter's Album Preview

Miranda Lambert didn’t actually bring down the house, but she sure loosened a few bricks Thursday night (Sept. 24) at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium in a show that spotlighted every song in her forthcoming album, Revolution.

Shaking her blonde mane like she was trying to rid it of tarantulas, she was pure energy in knee-high boots — and a sheer joy to witness.

In addition to a sizable hometown contingent from the music industry, the near capacity audience was also clotted with twenty and thirtysomethings, most of them women, who seemed to adore Lambert quite apart from her music.

Just before the curtain went up at 7:40 p.m., Steve Earle’s pounding proclamation, “The Revolution Starts Now,” surged through the Ryman’s sound system. Then, there stood Lambert at the microphone, black guitar in hand, feet wide apart and cocked to take on the world.

The single word “revolution” undulated on a giant banner suspended at the back of the stage.

Without saying a word, Lambert and her six-piece band roared into her current single, “White Liar,” which also happens to be Revolution’s first track. She proceeded to sing the tracks in order — “Only Prettier,” “Dead Flowers” (her debut single from the album), “Me and Your Cigarettes,” “Maintain the Pain,” “Airstream Song,” “Makin’ Plans,” “Time to Get a Gun,” “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go,” “The House That Built Me,” “Love Song,” “Heart Like Mine,” “Sin for a Sin,” “That’s the Way the World Goes ’Round” and “Virginia Bluebell.”

She was rewarded with one standing ovation after another as her parents cheered her on from the front row. Taylor Swift was in the balcony, standing and dancing to the music, and other local music celebrities were also spotted in the audience.

It didn’t slow things down a bit when Lambert’s drummer ruptured the head of his kick drum about three songs in. He calmly played on, not missing a beat, as a diligent roadie frantically replaced the head and then elfed away.

Lambert, who unveiled her tough gal pose in “Kerosene” and amped it up considerably with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Gunpowder & Lead,” returned to the theme in a big way in Revolution.

In “Maintain the Pain,” she sang, “I put a bullet in my radio” and then went on to catalog various other manifestations of feminine stress. She advised the crowd that she was “pissed off” that she hadn’t written one of her favorite songs on the new album. It was Fred Eaglesmith’s rousing (but less than menacing) “Time to Get a Gun.”

But there were softer moments, too. In “Airstream Song,” Lambert gently fantasized about living the “gypsy” life: “Sometimes I wish I lived by a pier/In a lighthouse with a chandelier.”

In a rare moment of tranquility, she sat on a stool to sing “one of the most special songs an artist ever recorded.” That song was Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin’s wistful “The House That Built Me,” in which a drifter returns to the house she grew up in, looking to “find myself.”

Having noted in her introduction that the Ryman was also a house that built her, Lambert, at the end of the song, dramatically knelt and kissed the stage.

She ended the album phase of her set with the serene and poetic “Virginia Bluebell,” an image of hope and strength in the fragility of a flower.

That’s it,” she chirped. “That’s Revolution, y’all.” But it wasn’t the end of the show.

Without taking a break, Lambert announced, “I can’t do the Ryman and not do a Merle [Haggard] song.” The song she picked was “The Way I Am,” accompanying herself on acoustic guitar as the band stood offstage. Her rendition of his 1980 hit would have made Haggard proud.

Then her rhythm guitarist, Scotty Wray, came out to accompany Lambert on “Crazy,” which she began singing facing him instead of the audience. Later in the song, she moved away from the microphone and continued singing, which demonstrated both the power of her voice and how the song might have sounded unamplified in the Ryman’s early days.

The band returned to back her on the deliciously carnal Hank Williams romp, “Settin’ the Woods on Fire.” It was probably no accident that she immediately followed it with “Kerosene.” The crowd stood and clapped throughout the latter tune as Lambert stomped defiantly around the stage.

Next came the exultant “New Strings” and the rueful “More Like Her.”

“Not to be conceited, but I’ll dedicate this next song to me,” said Lambert, “because I’m famous in a small town tonight.” The crowd agreed and happily sang along at her bidding on the chorus of “Famous in a Small Town.”

To end the show, Lambert pointed a finger skyward and shouted to the women, “Let’s see your pistols in the air.” That said, she lunged into that dark tale of spouse abuse and spousal revenge, “Gunpowder & Lead.”

Although the crowd cheered for more, Lambert and her band made a quick and final exit. An instant later, Roy Rogers’ “Happy Trails” was wafting through the sound system. After 23 songs, the show wrapped at 9:10 p.m.

There’s no question that Lambert is one of the most alluring voices and imaginative songwriters in country music today. If she’d just swap those clunky boots for ballet slippers more often, she might even take flight.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.