Kacey Musgraves / Natalie Prass Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, January 11
Published: January 12, 2019
As originally published by Alex Hudson on Exclaim!
"I'm literally not doing anything. I'm just breathing air."
Kacey Musgraves made this self-effacing quip a couple of songs into her electrifying set at a sold out Danforth Music Hall, when some brief banter turned into a deafening ovation. Even Kacey seemed a little taken aback by the adoration.
Even before she took the stage, the room was jam-packed and buzzing with energy — which was good news for opener Natalie Prass, whose smooth, '70s soul-pop tunes were warmly received at the start of the night. She and her band were all clad in matching royal blue, and they hinted at an intriguing future direction when they closed the set with a jittery, Dirty Projectors-esque new tune.
When the lights went down for the headliner, Musgraves was welcomed with chants of "Kacey! Kacey! Kacey!" as she appeared wearing a sparkly white jumpsuit. An intro of ambient keyboard tones and vocoder led into the aptly named folk of "Slow Burn," which wonderfully showcased Kacey's crystalline, note-perfect twang.
This set the tone for a performance that embraced country tropes one moment before completely subverting them the next. Several tunes were played in a stripped-down acoustic format, and songs like "Family Is Family" resembled a rustic front-porch jam session, with banjo and pedal steel. On the other hand, "Lonely Weekend" was peppered with tropical drum fills, and "Velvet Elvis" and "High Horse" were danceable disco jams.
The backdrop was elegantly decorated with three giant paper fans, and Musgraves and her six dapper bandmates performed atop a series of raised platforms. At various points throughout the 90-minute set, the musicians descended to the front area of the stage, and the singer joked that she was terrified of tripping down the stairs.
This kind of self-deprecating wisecrack was typical of Musgraves, who — despite the fact that she's currently touring her fourth major-label album — still hasn't fully lost her on-stage awkwardness. She smoothed her straight dark hair with the frequency of a nervous tic, and her dance moves were tentative rather than swaggering. It was only when Prass joined her for a cover of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" that she really cut loose.
Clearly, her greatest strength clearly isn't her charisma — it's her relatability. And if an adoring crowd in Toronto can relate to songs about a Texas trailer park and holler along with every word, it's no wonder that Musgraves has become such a crossover success.