(CMT Offstage keeps a 24/7 watch on everything that's happening with country music artists behind the scenes and out of the spotlight.)
"They booked me when I was nobody," Miranda Lambert said Thursday night (June 23) during a return appearance at Joe's Bar in Chicago. There were more than 1,000 fans packed into the tiny place, elbow to elbow, as she reminisced about her first show there when there were only about 300 people. Then she went on to give the bar the perfect gift for their 15th anniversary celebration: a 90-minute set of rockers, ballads and cover songs. And not just new songs but ones like "New Strings" from three albums ago. (Lambert shot the video for that tune in Joe's Bar back in 2006.) I don't completely understand the science of putting together a set list that makes everyone happy and leaves no stone unturned, but Lambert seems to have mastered it. She even had her dad Rick join her on Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin' Band," and she let him do Confederate Railroad's "Trashy Women" on his own. And about seven songs into the show, she brought Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley onstage to showcase the Pistol Annies, her brand-new girl band. (More on that later.) But by the end of the night, Lambert did address the one thing that's changed since she first started playing Joe's Bar. That ring on her left hand. "By the way," she told the crowd, "you can call me Mrs. Shelton now."