Kacey Musgraves at MTELUS, Jan 12, 2019

Photo: Kelly Christin Sutton

“You guys are ready to fucking yee-haw!”

It wasn’t a lie when Kacey Musgraves made that exclamation near the beginning of her show at MTELUS over the weekend.  Despite bitter-cold temperatures (a situation Musgraves also colourfully expressed concern and sympathy over), it couldn’t keep down the palpable excitement of an audience hungry to hear their country queen.

Musgraves was in town to promote her third and latest album, Golden Hour, which arrived like a soothing balm during a tumultuous 2018.  Filled with lovely hybrids of country and atmospheric pop, the album’s crossover appeal made it connect with seemingly everybody, from the CMAs and the Grammys, to even left-of-centre publications like Pitchfork.

The venue was packed (don’t discount Quebecers love of country music), with a diverse crowd of young and old, couples and families, hipster and cowboy chic.  Shimmering synths and a vocoder served as an intro to the show before leading into Golden Hour opener “Slow Burn.”  The audience was hooked from the get-go, already singing along to every lyric.

After performing several tracks from the new album, Musgraves and her band launched into “Merry Go ‘Round” from her debut album Same Trailer, Different Park, to no less a rapturous response.  Despite being about the “itty-bitty town in Texas” Musgraves hails from, audience members took her words to heart that it could be about any one of their hometowns too, as their voices were perfectly in unison when Musgraves got them to carry the chorus near the end of the tune.

For most of the show Musgraves alternated between the more traditional (yet no less idiosyncratic) country music of her first two albums and the crossover pop of Golden Hour, with the crowd showing love for both phases of Musgraves’ oeuvre.  One minute Musgrave and her band were performing Golden Hour’s swooning title track, the next her band were fully rocking out on Pageant Material cut “Die Fun.”  There was even a stripped-down portion of the show, with Musgraves’ band assembled in a family hoedown setting to perform acoustic versions of songs like “Oh, What a World” and “Love Is a Wild Thing.”

The swaggering beat of “Velvet Elvis” got things up-tempo again, with Musgraves remarking "I know yee-haw is having a moment now, but it's here to stay.”  Musgraves was clearly having a ball, especially after donning an appropriately diva-like coat to perform Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic “I Will Survive” (more apt than ever in our times) as a duet with opener Natalie Prass.

It took until nearly the end of the show for the appearance of what is perhaps Musgraves’ signature song, “Follow Your Arrow,” whose message of staying true to oneself elicited a wild response from the already ecstatic audience.  The huge sing-along sans Musgraves during the final chorus showed the impact of putting an artist in just the right venue to elevate their performance to wonderous heights.

While Golden Hour closer “Rainbow” seemed to bring an end to the show on a poignant note of maintaining hope during tough times, Musgraves quickly abandoned the pretense of the show being over and went straight into “High Horse.”  A four-on-the-floor barn burner and easily one of 2018’s best singles, Musgraves and the crowd danced with jubilant energy as the song brought the show to a rousing finish. All night the audience demonstrated their belief that Musgraves could do no wrong, and Musgraves proved them right that frigid January night.