The sold-out crowd thought they’d purchased tickets to see Miranda Lambert perform on Wednesday night, but instead they got a three-fer: Lambert brought along pals Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley for their first full-length concert as the Pistol Annies in five years.
“Surprise, y’all!” Lambert chirped after the three women arrived on stage at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and tore through “I Feel a Sin Comin’ On” from their last album, 2013’s Annie Up.
Lambert’s switcheroo still gave the Nashville audience a one-of-a-kind night for her second and final appearance as the museum’s artist-in-residence. It really was a coming-out party for the Annies’ long-awaited new music: The trio announced this week that they’ll be releasing their third album, Interstate Gospel, on Nov. 2, and the show included first-time performances of three of its cuts.
Lambert, 34, Monroe, 32, and Presley, 42 — aka Lonestar Annie, Hippie Annie and Holler Annie — brought all the sass, brass and bad ass that they’ve been known for since the supergroup debuted in 2011. And the bodaciously pregnant Presley, who is expecting a girl in January, added a new twist.
“It’s Angaleena’s baby’s first show with the Pistol Annies,” Lambert announced as she introduced “Bad Example,” from their 2011 debut album, Hell on Heels. “So we’re gonna do a song for a future bad girl, I guess.”
Last week, Lambert sliced open an emotional vein and bled heartache and heartbreak through a 17-song autobiographical set at her first artist-in-residence concert. “I feel like I’ve just been through three years of therapy,” she declared by night’s end.
But a week later, Lambert showed she has a ready antidote for life’s miseries: Just hole up with two of your best girlfriends and write songs — with a vengeance.
“We sing a lot about unhappiness, and it makes us very happy,” Lambert said as she introduced “Unhappily Married” from Annie Up. Like all the Annies music, it was written by at least one of the three singers.
“Well, I mean, husbands … hunh!” chimed in Presley, who has been married to her second husband, Jordan Powell, since 2012.
“And particular husbands,” Lambert added. “Yeah, because between the three of us …”
“… we got a lot!” interjected Monroe, who has been married to baseball player John Danks since 2013.
“We got two ex-husbands and two husbands,” Presley specified.
Lambert raised her hand and offered a sly smile. “Single lady,” she acknowledged.
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If the Annies’ three new songs are any indication, the trio has lost none of their spunk since their last album, not to mention their trailer-trashy humor.
“Well, Jesus is the bread of life — without him, you’re toast,” Presley twanged, launching into album-title cut “Interstate Gospel.”
For that song and a couple others, Lambert added a new, uber-country instrument to her repertoire, a washboard.
“I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing,” she said as she strapped on the board and poked her fingers into thimbles. “But I have watched some YouTube videos, so we’re gonna give ’er a whirl.”
All three of the new songs plumb traditional country themes. “Interstate Gospel” is a rambling road song. “Best Years of My Life” is a caustic lament about time wasted in bad relationships. And “Got My Name Changed Back” is an ecstatic post-divorce declaration of independence.
Presley introduced the latter with a heaping helping of sarcasm: “This next song has nothing to do with us and is about no one in this band.”
Lambert — who did, in fact, legally change her last name to Shelton during her marriage — grabbed the lead in the song as Monroe and Presley approved the message with rockin’ “yeah-yeahs.”
“It takes a judge to get married/a judge to get divorced/well, the last couple years, spent a lot of time in court,” Lambert sang with rollicking abandon. “Got my name changed back/Well, I wanted something new/then I wanted what I had/I got my name changed back.”
The crowd roared as Lambert seized the last laugh with one pointed lyric: “Well, I got me an ex that I adored/But he got along good with a couple road whores.”
Lambert beamed at the finish. “That was fun!” she proclaimed — and for any fool who had just tumbled from a turnip truck, she added, “Y’all get it?”
The final selection of the 18-song set — the hopelessly romantic “I Hope You’re the End of My Story” — reminded the crowd that the Annies aren’t total cynics when it comes to matters of love. (“I hope you’re the end of my story/I hope you’re as far as it goes/I hope you’re the last word I ever utter/It’s never your time to go.”)
“This was amazing,” Lambert said, assessing the evening in the final introduction. “I needed this. We’re just three girlfriends that live a lot of lives. We’ve got ex-husbands and husbands and babies and family things and all the things you deal with in life and … we sit around and write about our lives. Our records are slumber parties on wheels.”