Maren Morris Goes Pop at The Anthem

marenMaren Morris paused a couple times in her splashy headlining show at The Anthem in D.C. to take it all in.

It was her largest sellout to date, with 6,000 people, and just about everybody in the young, largely female crowd knew every lyric of her new album, which she only released a couple months ago.

Its messages of empowerment, love and occasional loss strikes a chord, even if its genre transcends its Nashville roots. There was nary a note in the 100 minute show you’d identify with country music. Even when she picked up an acoustic guitar to sing “A Song to Everything” solo, its references were to Springsteen, Katy Perry and Coldplay.

Maren may have come up writing songs recorded by Tim McGraw, but she’s no more country than Taylor Swift these days. In fact, it’s her voice on last year’s ubiquitous dance record, “The Middle,’ with which she closed her big show, setting off that big earworm again.

Her main pop influence, though, judging from how often it surfaced in the show, though, is Beyonce, particularly her uplifting “Halo,” which was not only covered at the tail end of “Second Wind,” but seemed to have incorporated into the title song to her new album, “Girl,” which kicked off the show.

From atop a staircase lined with lights, Morris arose from a hydraulic lift in a glittery cape, boots and hotpants. With a five man band seeming to augment unseen tapes, her voice is precise and soaring, so much so that it’s surprising that she was set on becoming only a songwriter before someone talked her into doing her own songs.

The one that was so much her own that she did sing it, also became her first big Grammy-winning hit, “My Church,” in which she finds her redemption speeding in her car with the windows rolled down and the radio on. Kind of like “Roadrunner,” but this time her references were classic country: “Hank brings the sermon, and Cash leads the choir.”

She saved that anthem for the end of the main set, with a hearty singalong from the crowd that surprised her as well. “Y’all are in tune and everything!”

But the bulk of the show was just about everything from “Girl” and only a handful from her pervious album, “Hero.”

The best part of the show were short, punchy pop songs that followed one after another: “Make Out with Me” “Gold Love” and “Flavor” that had all followed an acoustic “I Could Use a Love Song” that was accompanied not by a pedal steel, but a cello. It also came with a story about a radio programmer who told her people don’t like to hear women singing sad songs, and how she soundly disproved him.

It’s fun to see Morris at the top of her game at 29, and also having the time of her life on a big world tour. She’s also stretching her talents to write R&B songs like “RSVP” that would be a hit for, say, Mary J. Blige. But other songs lag on their influences, with a big “9 to 5” stomp on “All My Favorite People,” on which she was joined by Raylene, the former “Voice” competitor who is carving out her own career more based on country bad girl, with glitter spangled camo hot pants and some frank and funny songs (some of which have yet to be recorded).

Morris at this point probably doesn’t need to retell her story in concert as if she’s introducing herself to everyone for the first time. In her soaring pop ascent, she’s just got to get used to headlining audiences that are even bigger than the Anthem.

maren2

The setlist for Maren Morris at the Anthem was:

  • “Girl”
  • “The Feels”
  • “80s Mercedes”
  • “A Song for Everything”
  • “Common”
  • “To Hell & Back”
  • “All My Favorite People”
  • “I Could Use a Love Song’
  • “Make Out With Me”
  • “Gold Love”
  • “Flavor”
  • “Great Ones”
  • “Second Wind” / “Halo”
  • “Once”
  • “Rich”
  • “RSVP”
  • “The Bones”
  • “My Church”
  • “Shade”
  • “The Middle”
This entry was posted in Music, Review. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.