I stayed until the ugly lights came on. In fact, everyone stayed until the ugly lights came on. That was the vibe in Chicago on Saturday night (Aug. 25), when the Bandwagon tour made its final stop after bringing it to 17 other cities.
It was almost as if the fans knew that this was the end, and no one wanted it to be over.
The show ran from 8:00 to 11:00. And right around 10:00 — after Little Big Town had done their 15-song set and Miranda Lambert had done her 15-song set — when Lambert was singing “Tin Man,” Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook, and Phillip Sweet came back to the stage to join her.
That final hour of music felt a little bit like a CMT Crossroads, with all five singing each other’s songs. Plus a handful of very, very well-received covers. It’s like they saved the best for last, giving the people still planted in the pavilion and still dancing on the lawn an hour-long encore that felt as perfected as it did spontaneous.
From the Little Big Town catalog, the five did “Girl Crush,” “Boondocks,” and “Little White Church” (with a dash of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” in the middle). And from Lambert’s catalog, the group tackled “Smokin’ and Drinkin,’” “White Liar,” and “Little Red Wagon.”
But when the five singers came together on the cover songs, the crowd lost its collective mind. For Roberta Flack’s 1973 version of “Killing Me Softly with His Song.” For the Dixie Chicks’ 2000 story of vigilante justice “Goodbye Earl.” For the late Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” from 1984. And for Bill Withers’ 1972 “Lean on Me,” which was the song that ultimately ended the show.
During Little Big Town’s set, Schlapman told the crowd, “We wanted to end on a good note, so we went to Chicago. There’s something you need to know: homegrown, from Gary, Indiana, Karen Fairchild.” Fairchild curtsied after that introduction, and then the band’s two women went on to explain why their children had joined them on stage during “Happy People.” (Fairchild and Westbrook’s son Elijah was killing it with his floss dance moves.) It was just another one of many end-of-tour pranks, they said.
Schlapman continued, as she introduced a song the band had written together in their early days. “We’ve been a band for a long, long, long time. We started in the living room at my house, because I like to cook for everybody. Then we moved up to a minivan. And then we moved to a 15-passenger van. Then we moved up to a bus. But then we moved back to a van. Because that’s what happens in the music business sometimes. But we want to take you on our journey, and tonight you are with the band,” she said before they kicked off the concert favorite, 2007’s “I’m with the Band.”
Near the end of Lambert’s set, as she was introducing “Tin Man,” she stopped to get serious for a few minutes. Her message was all about how therapeutic the song was when she wrote it with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall.
“When I get on stage — every single time I walk on stage — my goal is to make you feel everything I can possible make you feel before you leave the building,” Lambert said. “Because that’s what music is, and that’s what music does. And I use this every day of my life. To heal me, and to get me through some shit. And that’s what this song did for me.”
Here’s what the Bandwagon tour’s happy ending looked like:
(Photo credit: Reid Long)