An outdoor show would have been ideal for a welcomed 70-degree evening in Nashville on March 13 when Maren Morris took to the Ryman Auditorium stage for her Girl: The World Tour. Perhaps more to do with the fact that not every fan was able to get a ticket for the sold-out gig, and less to do with the climate, Morris announced she will return to Nashville, playing the two-time larger Ascend Amphitheater on Oct. 18.
Morris’ signature vocal intuition delivered live is likely the biggest pull for the attendance surge. She consistently delivers a more soulful variant of her album cuts on stage. As the second show in her Girl: The World Tour, there are now 14 new tracks to showcase.
“I don’t even think I know the words to these songs that well and I wrote them, so I’ll just look to you for guidance,” beamed Morris. “My new record came out Friday, so it’s only been a couple days.”
Morris walks a line in her musical journey. She blends the elaborately produced elegance that has carried her through pop breakout hits like “The Middle,” with honest and heart-felt stories behind the hits, most she co-wrote.
“I used to drive up and down these two blocks in Nashville,” recalled Morris of Nashville’s Music Row area. “That’s where I met most of my friends who are in this crowd, and wrote the songs we’re playing tonight with me.”
Morris brought her full production, complete with video walls, to the Ryman’s wood stage. Raising through the risers in a dramatic entrance, Morris cast aside a shimmering glitter coat after the first number to don a fringed bedazzled denim jumper for the remainder of the show.
She took the most vocal liberties on the songs she’s been performing for the past few years, off her debut, Hero. “80s Mercedes” welcomed the audience back to Morris’ world and the pop-flavored song that set her whole career into motion. “Rich” showed off her stage presence and delivered her comfort in energy and motion as she eased into her soulful ingenuity. And then there’s “Once,” where Morris just totally wails and reminds you her career still has an incredibly strong trajectory with the pairing of songs that showcase her vocal ease and extreme power and shoots for the heart.
A slew of guests surprised the audience, and even Morris herself.
With arguably the most memorable 2019 Grammy performance, roots/Americana winner Brandi Carlile joined Morris for a new duet off Girl, “Common.”
Show opener Cassadee Pope joined Morris for a radio-friendly duet off the new record, “All My Favorite People,” which is performed with Brothers Osborne on GIRL.
Most surprisingly, country star Miranda Lambert and hit songwriter Natalie Hemby joined Morris on the stage for a song Morris chose off Lambert’s 2009 album, “Virginia Bluebell.” While Morris did not share writing credits for the deep cut, she praised her fellow Texan as early inspiration to try her shot six years ago in Music City.
“I mean this is the girl tour,” said Morris. “I love Maren Morris, she’s a bad ass,” praised Lambert. Lambert and Hemby stayed to impeccably harmonize on Morris’ “I Wish I Was.”
“This is so fun, I wish I had a Springsteen-type catalog to play for four hours,” exclaimed Morris, who turned back to new music. She introduced “To Hell & Back,” the first song written for the album, saying, “I was going through this weird in-between breakup and single [stage]—where you’re not quite out of the tunnel yet.”
Probably the most appropriate and self-defining song on Girl, “Flavor,” offers Morris a chance to stand her ground. Original could take a while/I’m cooking up my own flavor. Morris is a trailblazer. Her appropriate Dixie Chicks reference was well accepted by the unabashed millennial crowd, singing every word.
Even sitting, or laying down on the stairs like in “Make Out With Me,” Morris’ voice packed a punch, and the glow of the staircase offered a distinguished flair, appropriate for the delivery.
Morris is on the right track—namely her own. She rides that wave of musical lineage many have caught before her on their path to becoming a legend. A catalog takes time, and with songs like “The Bones,” Morris is able to color outside the lines of a genre that, for perhaps the first time, is able to unconditionally accept an empowered female who lets her vocals loose.
As the show progressed there was less behind-the-scene anecdotes between songs, which became ballad heavy. Her first No. 1, “I Could Use A Love Song,” was one such title—but a stand-out regardless—for which Morris addressed critique. “A guy at a radio station that said people don’t want to hear women being sad on the radio,” recalled Morris. “I’m pretty sure sad songs are what built country music. I want to know I’m not alone in my broken heart, and I put this song out anyway, and it took 42 weeks to finally hit No. 1. And that guy doesn’t have his job anymore. The universe is funny that way.”
Of course the antithesis track, the pop commercial cut “The Middle,” concluded the whole evening in the encore, after her seated, casual delivery of another new title, “Shade.”
Morris was surprised by Pope, Lambert, Carlile and Hemby, who helped join on a larger-than-life, gospel-punched production of “My Church,” to conclude her set.
“2019 is going to be a turning point for a lot of key people, women, a lot of underdogs,” she concluded. “I’ve been fortunate to have my songs played on the radio the last couple years, but I know so many of my friends who are badasses and deserve to be on there, and are not. I’m going to continue to be the squeaky wheel until something gets some oil.”
Citi presale for the Ascend Amphitheater show begins Tuesday, March 21, with tickets on sale to the public Friday, March 22. Special guests to be announced.
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