Lambert shines at Darien Lake
Updated 6:26 PM , August 30, 2014
It was a golden performance.
But “Platinum”? In name only.
Playing to a jammed crowd Friday night at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Miranda Lambert chugged through a 70-minute, 20-song set with indefatigable energy, attitude and vocals.
The country superstar played a mix of her earlier hits and selections from her recent album “Platinum,” which doubles as the name of her tour.
It was a fine performance, one befitting of a live-in-concert DVD, which is both a compliment and a criticism: The 30-year-old Texas native nailed nearly every note, guitar lick, subtle dance move and fun facial expression with expert precision.
The fans soaked it up, sang along and left happy. They saw the best of Lambert’s plentiful talent.
But they didn’t get to know her much, if at all. She revealed little of her herself, interacting just sparingly with the crowd, and despite wearing a black-and-gray sleeveless T-shirt emblazoned with “I (heart) the Band,” didn’t even introduce the seven musicians who were backing her up.
Stinging criticism, this is not. You can see a performer put on a golden performance. Or the artist can transcend the music by connecting with the audience in a way that makes you feel as if you’ve spent an intimate evening together. That’s the so-called platinum result. Lambert didn’t hit that, but the music was excellent. Lambert’s vocals ruled the night; her twangy, rock-edged voice as good as what you’d hear on an album or a DVD.
Favorites included a haunting rendition of “The House That Built Me,” with the bright stage lights tapered down to a dark blue and Lambert beneath four chandeliers, and “Hard Staying Sober,” which showcased the instrumental abilities of Lambert’s talented backup guitarist and vocalist, Carolyn Dawn Johnson.
In “Famous in a Small Town,” photos of a young Lambert playing on a small stage and recording in a studio flashed across the video screen, building to a crescendo with the image of her June 2014 Rolling Stone cover.
As the crowd erupted in cheers at the sight of the magazine, Lambert looked into the audience, her face framed by a shorter blonde locks than those from the cover shoot, and flashed a smile and wink. At this variety of unspoken interaction, Lambert excels. The subtleties of her facial expressions and body language go a long way toward compensating for her lack of banter.
At the end of “Priscilla,” in which Lambert sings about “real big rings,” she pointed to her wedding ring (she’s married to country star Blake Shelton), looked at someone in the audience and shrugged. The giant video screen caught it all, and the crowd laughed.
Likewise, and most memorably, Lambert acted out the spoken lyrics in “Little Red Wagon” with physicality and pizzazz. I only wish she would have allowed a touch of that personality to seep out between songs.
Not that the evening was devoid of personal connections. Lambert’s excellent openers, Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore, excelled in that area. Each played a separate set, though their energy expanded exponentially when they teamed up on “Small Town Throwdown.”
Rhett, who channels a bit of ’80s hair-rock with his pelvic-centric dance moves, revved up the crowd by weaving a few lines of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” into his song, “Something to Do with My Hands.”
And Moore, who’ll soon be ready to headline his own shows, enraptured the crowd with his remake of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” and his original “Small Town USA.” At the end of his set, Moore knelt on stage and gazed into the crowd, absorbing their screams.
“Thanks for giving me that memory,” he said.
It was a moment of gratitude in an evening of shiny, polished music that would have reached greatness with just a touch more personality.
Friday night at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien