Live Review: Kacey Musgraves, Shane Nicholson

25 March 2015 | 6:10 pm | Chris Familton

"Just a little too much polish and not enough grit."

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Solo and acoustic, Shane Nicholson previewed songs from Hell Breaks Loose, as well as various highlights from his back catalogue. With his laidback and commanding stage presence he offered up observations on the dangers of facial hair and harmonicas between songs and coyly commended the audience for supporting real country music. A social media push to get Fanny Lumsden a place on the bill fell short but the gallant Nicholson invited Lumsden up for a wonderful duet on his Rattlin’ Bones before two random audience members were chosen to play harmonica on a cover of Never Been To Spain.

Kacey Musgraves and band lit up the stage with neon cacti, plenty of sparkle and suits resplendent in white flashing fairy lights. The diminutive singer who first rose up through the Nashville ranks as a respected songwriter seemed nervous at first, but she quickly warmed to the task of playing to a full but much smaller room than she is used to these days. With Same Trailer Different Park out for a couple of years and a new one due in June the audience were rewarded for their devotion to the older songs and treated to a couple of previews of the new record, including an acoustic version of new single Biscuits. The crowd response was enthusiastic with Musgraves' every word met with shrill whoops and screams but her singing voice was underwhelming in the live environment. It lacked depth and any emotional impact, a prerequisite for country music. A confounding sound mix had overbearing drums and guitars relegated to distant plucking and strumming, a symptom of the pop-country world that Musgraves has one rhinestone boot in. With a batch of covers (Bob Marley, Weezer, Lee Hazlewood and TLC ) she showed her desire to expand the parameters of country music. Many seemed to love the approach but it diluted the strength of her strong country songwriting chops. This was a professional and slick performance with just a little too much polish and not enough grit.