Country queen Maren Morris enchants Roots N Blues audience with high-energy, intimate performances

Morris brought her sparkling wit and stark musical versatility to Columbia on Friday, with a perfectly curated blend of old country, new country and pop music influences.

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Country superstar Maren Morris wrapped up day one of Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival with her sharp wit, undeniable Texas charm and empowering deep cut lyrics for a robustly engaged audience.

Morris kicked off her set with the title track from her latest album “GIRL,” for which she has been touring since March. Heavy electric guitar riffs and Morris’ mighty belts rang out through Stephens Lake Park as her silhouette was illuminated from behind.

“Don't you lose your halo; everyone's gonna be okay, baby girl,” Morris sings in this girl power anthem.

Female empowerment is a prominent theme in Morris’ “GIRL” album era, and she made it clear with Friday’s set. With high energy performances of songs like “Flavor” and “Second Wind,” Morris made it obvious that the night was for the powerful and outspoken women — those not unlike Morris herself — in the audience.

“Shut up and sing? Well, hell no, I won’t,” Morris proclaimed in “Flavor,” in an apparent nod to country girl group the Dixie Chicks, who were famously shunned by the country music industry in 2003 after speaking out against President Bush’s decision to deploy U.S. troops in Iraq.

“It was completely unfair treatment of a group of women just voicing an opinion, like any dude has in the history of time,” Morris said of the Dixie Chicks to Rolling Stone in July. “They just happened to be in a genre where it’s not cool to ever air that opinion.”

The female empowerment motif of Friday’s concert remained through the slower and more intimate songs of the evening as well, like “Good Woman,” and “To Hell & Back.”

“The weight of the world’s got nothin’ on me,” Morris sang in “Good Woman,” warranting a number of audience members to shed a tear.

Morris also shared with the festival audience the story of a country radio executive she met at a 2016 North Carolina show. The “obnoxious, rude, and hammered drunk” program director laughed in her face when she revealed her ballad “I Could Use a Love Song” as the third single to be released from her “HERO” album.

“People do not want to hear sad women on the radio,” he told Morris, warranting enough “rage” for her to choose the song anyway.

“I Could Use a Love Song” went on to become Morris’ first ever number one song on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

“If he had pulled a line like that with me now, I probably would’ve kicked his ass,” Morris told the crowd proudly.

Morris also made a point to showcase her stark musical versatility with flawless covers of Beyoncé’s “Halo” and ‘90s pop hit “Lovefool” by The Cardigans in a burst of colorful lights and booming drum beats. Morris also performed a solo version of her 2018 dance pop collaboration with Zedd and Grey, “The Middle” in one of the evening’s most high-energy moments.

“We’ll meet you anywhere,” audience members shouted to Morris as the performance ended, referencing lyrics from the song’s chorus.

But the highest energy and musical fervor from Morris and audience members alike came during her classics like “80s Mercedes” and, of course, her timeless country anthem “My Church.” With stained glass windows on the stage screens behind her and a glistening cloud of bright orange confetti raining down on the crowd, Morris ended her show belting out the final chorus of “My Church.”

With an indisputably impressive stage presence and a perfectly gauged mix of new country, old country and pop music influences, Morris’ Roots N Blues N BBQ set was a testament to how she has earned her well-deserved title as a queen of 21st century country music.

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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