On the day Aretha Franklin died, Miranda Lambert summoned the Queen of Soul’s spirit at Darien Lake while making her own claim to fame as one of the greatest divas of our time. The small-town Texan-turned country superstar paid respects before combining with co-headliner Little Big Town for a dual-band diva salute Thursday night.
After a short solo set from affable Albertan Tenille Townes, Oklahoma sextet Turnpike Troubadours tore through six stirring songs from the mass appeal of “Every Girl” to the Hill Country waltz of “The Bird Hunters.”
With singer Evan Felker’s inviting tenor punctuated by pummeling rhythm and paired riffs from fiddler Kyle Nix along with lead guitarist and Steamboat ski instructor Ryan Engleman, the band is on a rapid rise from Red Dirt to mainstream while maintaining industry independence.
Nashville’s Little Big Town offered an hour-long clinic on four-part harmony for the mostly female audience, as Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet along with an understated backing band barreled through their pop-country canon. Pandering party hits “Day Drinking’” and “Pontoon” bookended deeper songs like the Taylor Swift-penned “Better Man,” all led by Fairchild.
Lambert opened with John Prine’s “That’s the Way that the World Goes Round,” rearranged with her eight-member band into a rocking rave-up to her slanky twang of “Highway Vagabond.”
Her confessional songs skirting the line between sassy and sober, she soared in the sparse “The House that Built Me” then stunned with Aretha’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” returning to rollicking with her own feminist anthem in “Gunpowder and Lead.”
Little Big Town eventually returned for a revue of each other’s hits mashed with covers including Roberta Flack, Dixie Chicks and Destiny’s Child to a howling crowd.
They say it’s a man’s world, but you can’t prove that by Miranda.
Miranda Lambert, Aug. 16 at Darien Lake Amphitheatre
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