Miranda Lambert is a big deal. Her debut album was one of the few in history to come out of the box at No. 1 on the sales charts and Lambert's three full-length releases (her newest is scheduled for November this year) have all gone platinum, each of them selling more than one million units.
Like many of the modern country music stars that have cropped up in the last decade or two, she is conversant in the anthemic rock 'n' roll riffs her target audience knows and loves. She's also canny enough to take some fairly convincing stabs at working country cred ballads like "The House That Built Me" into her repertoire.
Sunday night's concert at the Erie County Fair was a love fest between Lambert and her fans. From the moment she took the stage, greeted by a phalanx of photo-snapping smartphones, and launched into a rockin' "Only Prettier," the audience was in her thrall, singing lyrics and shouting their praise at the end of nearly every tune.
Lambert and her band responded with an hour-and-a-half set that ran through almost all of her hit singles in addition to a lot of material from her 2009 album ("Revolution"), a song ("Baggage Claim") from her forthcoming release, a couple of country music classics (Loretta Lynn's "Fist City" and a surprisingly limp take on Patsy Cline's signature tune, "Crazy," and a few surprises.)
One thing that wasn't a surprise was the influence that rock 'n' roll had on her set list. It is commonplace in country music concerts these days to turn the volume up in ways that Jimmy Rogers, Maybelle Carter and Hank Snow never thought of. Lambert's band was electrified and loud, displaying the kind of chops and pop sensibilities that wouldn't be out of place in any number of chart-topping Southern rock bands, as displayed by their cranked-up renditions of Rick Derringer's "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" and, towards the very end of the evening, "Travelin' Band" by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
"Kerosene," "Maintain the Pain" and "White Liar" had plenty of hooks and power, but there were also moments when the volume settled down and countryfied power ballads like "Famous In a Small Town" and a marvelous version of "The House That Built Me" came to the fore.
Lambert also is taking part in a side project called Pistol Annies with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley and it was a bit of a surprise when they joined her onstage to run through some material from their soon-to-be-released album.
All three have strong voices that mesh for some solid harmonies. While there were some raucous moments, the overall feel was more front-porch-intimate than the rest of the show. They had their own power ballad ("Bring Me Down"), but "Hell On Heels," "Hunter's Wife" and "Takin' Pills" had a bit more punch and humor than much of Lambert's regular show.
When all is said and done, however, it is apparent that Miranda Lambert is a star with a loyal and vociferous following. She's entertaining on stage, knows what her audience wants and delivers the goods. You can't knock it; it's too much fun.
Sunday evening at the Erie County Fair, Hamburg.