Miranda Lambert, having conquered country music with her mix of sass and sweetness, is ready to expand her reach.
Even before she took the stage Saturday night at the Izod Center in New Jersey, Lambert made her plans known with a short video of powerful women ranging from Oprah to Reba, set to Beyonce's “Run the World (Girls),” a dance track about as far afield from Lambert's down-home country as she could get. While Lambert didn't bust out a booty shake or start rapping during her massive 100-minute, arena-worthy spectacular, she showed that she's one of music's most-promising new superstars -- country or otherwise.
She proclaimed her love of R&B as she offered “my best white girl attempt to do some Aretha Franklin,” as she ably took on “Do Right Woman” for her first encore. She did her best to make Tom Petty's “Free Girl Now” her own fiery rock liberation anthem. And she even announced onstage her acting debut -- an upcoming spot on her favorite show “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” on Feb. 8. (“I have seven lines, and I'm amazing,” she joked with the crowd, adding later that she treated herself to a ring from Tiffany's that day. “I deserve it because I'm an actress now,” she said, laughing.)
Of course, Lambert handles nothing better than her own eclectic brand of country -- brash one minute and tender the next. Her brashness was addictive, as she ripped through the rocking “Maintain the Pain” and closing the night out with a raucous trio of “That's the Way the World Goes 'Round,” “Gunpowder and Lead” and a defiant “White Liar.”
Her ballads were poignant, as she fought back tears on the lovely Grammy-winning “The House That Built Me” and on her current single “Over You,” which Lambert said was oddly timed, following the death of her father-in-law Dick Shelton earlier this month and the death of a friend last week. “It's like God is up there saying, 'This is supposed to be your single right now. You're going through some pain,'” Lambert said.
It's her adventurousness, though, that was most impressive, showing off the depth of her recent “Four the Record” album with the help of her five-piece band that features Keith Zebroski, formerly of Deer Park's Nine Days, on drums. “Mama's Broken Heart,” with its Gogol Bordello verses and Lone Justice cow-punk chorus, kicked even harder. Her indie-rock-leaning “Fine Tune” was even more charming, while her big-tent philosophy folkie waltz "All Kinds of Kinds” became a sing-along.
“I'm one of those strong-willed women, if you can't tell,” Lambert explained during her encore, which spanned the Queen of Soul and Waylon Jennings' “Honky Tonk Heroes.”
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With a will that strong and talent so wide, Lambert seems unstoppable.
SET LIST: Fastest Girl in Town / Kerosene / Heart Like Mine / New Strings / Over You / More Like Here / Baggage Claim / Fine Tune / Up Around the Bend / Maintain the Pain / Dead Flowers / Famous in a Small Town / Only Prettier / Free Girl Now / Mama's Broken Heart / All Kinds of Kinds / The House That Built Me / That's the Way the World Goes 'Round / Gunpowder and Lead / White Liar
ENCORE: Do Right Woman / Honky Tonk Heroes (w/Chris Young and Jerrod Niemann)
Photo: Miranda Lambert at a Jones Beach concert.