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Photo Essay by Andy Witchger: Kacey Musgraves at St. Paul’s Palace Theatre

Just days before winning Album of the Year at the 2019 Grammy Awards, Kacey Musgraves performed her 2018 breakthrough, Golden Hour, at a sold-out Palace Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Much ink has been spilled chronicling Musgraves’ transition from country troubadour to pop starlet, but neither of those categories fully encapsulate her oeuvre. The Texas native’s lyrical content and personal revelations make it clear that she isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool Nashville type. But, neither is Musgraves a genre hopping pop star. Her lilting voice serves as an anchor, regardless of whether she’s singing the disco-inflected “High Horse” or the ruminative ballad “Mother.” Even a crowd-pleasing cover of “Girls Just Want to to Have Fun” late in her set sounded distinctly Kacey.

Musgraves’ ability to meld genres to her liking is essential to her widespread appeal. A quick glance around the packed theatre did reveal a few cowboy hats, but they were far outnumbered by fans in sequin dresses, flannel shirts and leather jackets. Parents with small children in tow were as common as couples swaying together under the vibrant light show.

Anyone in attendance expected to hear the hits from Golden Hour, but Musgraves played the album in its entirety, with crowd-pleasers like “Wonder Woman,” “Butterflies” and “Follow Your Arrow” interspersed.

A highlight of the night was the band’s reorganization as a stripped-down acoustic group part way through the set, trading electric guitars for banjos and an upright bass. The choreographed stage show gave way to a more intimate experience, complemented by Musgraves regaling the audience with stories about her backing band and asides that hinted at swirling political divisions that hang above us all.

This was one night where those divisions didn’t seem so overwhelming. Pausing as raucous applause died down, Musgraves reflected, “I know that country music isn’t always the most inclusive of environments, and it’s cool to see that no one in here gives a shit about that.”

Setlist:

“Slow Burn”

“Wonder Woman”

“Butterflies”

“Lonely Weekend”

“Happy & Sad”

“Merry Go ‘Round”

“High Time”

“Golden Hour”

“Die Fun”

“Mother”

“Oh, What a World”

“Family Is Family”

“Love Is a Wild Thing”

“Velvet Elvis”

“Space Cowboy”

“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (Cyndi Lauper cover)

“Follow Your Arrow”

Encore:

“Rainbow”

“High Horse”

Andy Witchger (@andywitchger) is a naturalist and concert junkie from Minneapolis. You can find his work in City Pages, The Current and on his mom’s refrigerator.

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