Music Review – Kacey Musgraves, Shepherd’s Bush, London

This Sunday night I saw Kacey Musgraves perform at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London as she’s out on the road with her Same Trailer Different Park tour. It was the second time I’ve seen her live. The first time, last year, was at the smaller Bush Hall, just around the corner from the Empire. Then Kacey had a barebones group backing her up, many of whom were London musicians filling in for the night, with her British tour manager sitting in on drums on a few songs. In the intimate environment of Bush Hall and with unfamiliar faces around her on stage, Kacey rose to the occasion. Knowing that she was going to have to do most of the heavy lifting, musically speaking, for the evening, she was fully engaged with her material and with the audience. It was a performance filled with Kacey’s easygoing charm but she sang with some passion.

Tonight at the Empire, Kacey still had her laidback vibe but this time she had brought her full band of Nashville pros to back her up. The difference was considerable. These guys were seasoned professionals who know the music inside-out and, to be honest, while they never played a bum note all night, they mostly looked bored. The London players from last year, no doubt all too aware that the material was new to them, had an energy that the regulars didn’t match. Kacey-Musgraves

Kacey’s whole shtick on stage is built around that easygoing persona but since her last time here, she has been nominated for a slew of CMA awards back in the States and has been on TV and radio here in the UK (quite a feat for a country artist), and any sense of a young musician out to prove herself was noticeable by its absence. She coasted through the set and it felt like she was going through the motions. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled. A few months ago I saw Holly Williams in London and she gave one of the most heartfelt performances I’ve seen from a singer in any genre. When Holly sang her beautiful ode to her grandparents, Waiting On June, she scarcely managed to keep her composure. It was riveting. Kacey seems like an emotional and vocal lightweight by comparison, the latter point driven home by an ill-considered attempt to cover I Put A Spell On You, sung with no trace of the deranged menace of Screaming Jay Hawkins or the gutsy bravado of John Fogerty. In Kacey’s hands, it became dangerously inoffensive, which sums up the whole evening. It was slick and professional but disappointingly passionless.  Get your fire back, girl.


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