SAN JOSE — Miranda Lambert covered all the bases at the San Jose stop of her ‘Wildcard’ tour on Friday, from twangy powerhouse rockers to lonesome ballads and flirty tongue-in-cheek tunes. She and her solid eight-member band played for an hour and a half straight, bypassing the traditional encore entirely at SAP Center.
Perhaps as a result of a lack of energy from concertgoers, or because Lambert stayed in the same gear for the duration, the performance at times lagged. There were no obvious flaws, and the songs were solid from start to finish, but only a handful stood out from the pack. More often, the songs bled into one another during the middle section of the show.
Lambert started strong with “White Trash,” a country anthem and one of a handful of tunes from her raucous new album, Wildcard. Banger “Kerosene”upped the ante and excitement several notches. The title track from Lambert’s 2005 debut album was highlighted by a banjo player fingerpicking a juicy riff alongside the superstar.
After show highlight “Mess With My Head,” a Wildcard cut that sounded more like a power pop song with pedal steel, Lambert introduced “Famous in a Small Town” as an “oldie but goodie,” and strapped on an acoustic guitar with a sparkly strap. From that point on, the momentum began to slowly dissipate with a slew of songs that ran intro each other without much crowd interaction, storytelling or breaks to fully take the songs in.
“It All Comes Out in the Wash” and its double entendres led to a solid, if not notable “Vice,” moody love song “Bluebird,” bluesy “Heart Like Mine” (a slide solo stood out on this cut) and the tongue-in-cheek “We Should Be Friends.”
Lambert and her band struck gold on a cover of John Prine’s “That’s the Way That the World Goes ‘Round,” a rollicking number that got fans out of their seats, but immediately followed it up with a ho-hum twangy take on Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Love Me,” which saw those same fans looking for their chairs. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. The banjo player shined with every opportunity he got, including a solo during this song.
On a softly simmering “The House That Built Me,” Lambert began backed only by an acoustic guitar before an organ, bass and more joined in. It was a beatiful song and performance, but what the show needed right then was something with a bit more zip to it.
Lambert next told a story behind “Dark Bars,” her new album’s closing track. She spoke of writing the song on a napkin in a New York City bar. The song itself was a softer ballad, and a beautiful one at that. But at that point, other than the fans standing in the front, it was easier to count those standing up than sitting down.
The needed energy came in the form of “Baggage Claim”—not actually about visiting an airport. On the song, from 2011 album Four the Record, Lambert traded verses with her backing vocalist and pianist. The electricity among the three was palpable, and it was raised further as the band went into a snippet of Traffic’s 1968 standard, “Feelin’ Alright.” A couple of songs later, “Gunpowder & Lead” became the first song to to get most of the room on its feet and singing along, word for word.
That went right into barn-burner “Mama’s Broken Heart,” which played like a combination honky-tonk tune and Gypsy punk tune, with the drummer slightly out of pocket to create a sort of wobbling and loose cannon vibe. More than an hour in, Miranda Lambert had reached high gear. It didn’t consistently stay in high gear, though. “All Kinds of Kinds” came with a heart-warming montage of puppy pictures and a call to help dogs through Miranda’s rescue foundation but was otherwise standard fare.
“Tequila Does” added humor, while “Automatic” and “White Liar” increased the pace toward the end of the show. Penultimate song “Little Red Wagon” was the final highlight with its signature messy garage rock sound.
A couple songs earlier, Lambert spoke about visiting the Winchester Mystery House earlier in the day, where a guide explained how Sarah Winchester should be considered smart rather than crazy.
“I think she was a little bit of both,” Lambert said. Her performance was plenty smart, but it could have used more crazy and raw emotion.
Nashville band LANCO opened the show with a compact set of songs that emphasized the rock in country. Meandering new single “What I See,” from 2019 album Lessons Learned, raised up what the band saw as the heart of America. “Trouble Maker,” from 2018’s Hallelujah Nights, was a boogie-woogie jam with an entertaining whooping call-and-response section. The song went into a three-minute harmonica-led jam during which singer Brandon Lancaster climbed down from the stage to lean against fans in the front row. LANCO closed with banjo-tinged nostalgic ballad “Greatest Love Story,” about a lover who got away.
The night’s second act, Cody Johnson, polarized the room when he went into a political rant—seconds after promising not to get political. It went something like this:
Johnson spoke about a recent show where he declared that people who weren’t happy with the way America is now should leave the country. Afterward, The Texas native said he was attacked by “haters” online. He then proceeded to make the same declaration and dedicated his song “Doubt Me Now” “to the haters.” This got some tepid applause.
Otherwise, his set included mid-tempo love ballad “With You I Am,” twangy Southern rocker “Me and My Kind,” reverberating ballad “Nothin’ on You,” and a cover of Chris Stapleton’s “Either Way.” One highlight was a bluesy stomper “Long Haired Country Boy,” originally by The Charlie Daniels Band cover. Johnson concluded with new single “Dear Rodeo,” a sort of love declaration not to a person but his first passion: bull-riding; and his biggest hit, “On My Way to You.”
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.