SAN FRANCISCO — Nashville singer-songwriter Maren Morris brought her newly released album, Girl, to The Masonic Tuesday night for her first Bay Area headlining performance and a night of pop bombast with streaks of R&B and soap bubble cannons. If there was anything the next top country music star was missing, it was the country.
As an album, but especially in the live setting, Girl sets Maren Morris up as more of a Taylor Swift than a Kacey Musgraves. She and her tight band packed riffs-aplenty and a driving rhythm section, but lacked a pedal steel and broke out twangy guitars only on her older songs. This made it easy to tell which song came from which era. And that was perfectly fine with the majority of fans in attendance, who didn’t resemble a country crowd but danced and sang along to the new songs as well as the old ones.
Morris, who released the new album on March 8, talked about how she got sideways glances from people in the music biz when she wanted to drop the album and hit the road less than two months after first releasing her first single.
“You guys validated that shit by making this album No. 1,” she said.
Morris opened with that empowering single, the album’s title track, by appearing atop a riser in sparkly shorts and boots and strumming a white guitar.
“Don’t lose your halo/ Girl,” she sang.
After the bubbly “The Feels” and riff-heavy power pop number “80s Mercedes,” she played an acoustic guitar on “A Song for Everything,” which was a couple steps slower but was still plenty poppy. “Common” was a fun ballad with elements of R&B and soul, which played a factor on a handful of other new tracks.
Morris introduced “To Hell & Back” as being written a year ago, when her now-husband proposed to her at a time when her career was taking off but her personal life was crumbling. The two celebrated their one-year anniversary over the previous few days in San Francisco, walking the streets, shopping and eating well.
“All My Favorite People” was the most country-leaning song on Girl, with a folky feel and some slide-guitar playing. The mid-tempo song had twangy guitars and a Southern rock chord progression. Opener Cassadee Pope hopped on stage to dance and sing with Morris.
But it was the next song, “I Could Use a Love Song” (a No. 1 country single from 2016’s HERO) which was the first reminder that Morris came up as a country artist. She performed the song on an acoustic guitar, backed by a guitarist and cellist. She followed that up with the sultry “Make Out With Me,” lying on her back on the riser. Other tunes performed in the same vein included “Once” (off HERO) and the sensual “RSVP,” as images of (presumably) her and her husband canoodling in Paris played on the screen behind her. The visuals didn’t hit you over the head, but connected a few of the concert’s segments. A recurring theme was perspective looking over women’s shoulders as they dealt with blood-pumping situations like getting ready to box, light a car on fire or create art.
Other show highlights included banger “Flavor,” twangy Souther rocker “Rich” and the folky group singalong “My Church,” which concluded the main set before Morris and her band returned to perform “Shade” and “The Middle,” her collaboration with Zedd and Grey.
Singer-songwriter Cassadee Pope, the 2012 winner of The Voice, opened the show with a set of pop-country tunes primarily from her new album Stages, which she released in February.
“How I Feel Right Now” featured muted rock strumming while “Bring Me Down Town” was more riff-heavy. “If My Heart Had A Heart” was more of a classic country song but with punchier bass and drumming.
Before performing “Think of You,” her breakthrough hit on radio, Pope credited the song for changing her life. Her set climaxed with “Wasting All These Tears,” on which she showed off her powerful pipes and impressive vocal range. She also threw in a fun cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”