AP NEWS

Concert review A ‘brilliant bit of serendipity’

February 26, 2019

When Kacey Musgraves was announced as this year’s RodeoHouston opener, it was a pleasant surprise, a much-needed shift from genre norms.

But in the wake of four Grammys and an appearance at Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, it felt like a brilliant bit of serendipity.

“I have always wanted to play RodeoHouston ever since I was a little girl,” Musgraves told Monday night’s crowd of 53,031. “We have a lot to celebrate.”

Musgraves, who hails from East Texas, has become one of music’s hottest commodities in recent days. Never mind that she’s been putting out terrific albums since 2013. (Seriously, check out “Same Trailer, Different Park” and “Pageant Material.”)

Her debut RodeoHouston performance was also a testament to this year’s lineup, the most diverse and youthful in years. Musgraves’ best songs turn country cliches on their head, and she’s a fierce proponent for the LGBTIA community.

She looked every bit the retro superstar in a lacy white jumpsuit with bell-bottoms, her hair blown out in a kitschy ’60s bouffant.

RodeoHouston shows usually find performers bellowing outward to the crowd. But Musgraves frequently demanded they lean in for songs like “Slow Burn” and “Butterflies.” Her lyrics are wry and thoughtful. Her voice is sweet, lilting and a welcome bit of subtlety.

Something clicked when she launched into “Merry Go ’Round,” her 2012 debut single. She finally had the crowd completely on her side, leading them through a gentle singalong.

She strummed through a solid take on “Mama’s Broken Heart,” a song she co-wrote that was made famous by Miranda Lambert.

Her unique appeal, however, was best exemplified later in the set.

Musgraves’ own “Space Cowboy” was a country-pop dream. She turned Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon” into a pulsing bit of electro brilliance. And, in a truly magical moment, she ably covered Tejano classic “Como la Flor.”

“I love the queen Selena just as much as you do!” Musgraves shouted as the crowd roared.

She closed with a pair of originals — self-empowering ballad “Rainbow” and the disco swirl of “High Horse” — that were a little bit country, a little bit pop and unlike anything else you’ll hear on the RodeoHouston stage this year.

joey.guerra@chron.com