Maren Morris weaved honest conversation, heartfelt reflection and powerful testimony into her headlining show at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville on Friday (Oct. 18).
Morris launched the show in a stoic, steady and poised fashion with an electric guitar in hand for the opening “Girl” that had both women and men chanting along to the motivational lyrics. After offering a suave vibe with “80s Mercedes” and delivering a dose of nostalgia on “A Song For Everything,” she got the people fired up out of their seats with “All My Favorite People,” inviting her husband Ryan Hurd to sing the second verse in place of duet partner Brothers Osborne, Morris ending the number with a guitar riff off with bass player Annie Clements.
The rising superstar brought the atmosphere to an honest place as she delivered an unfiltered speech about what it means to find ones match, which includes taking time to focus on yourself. “Relationships that always get better over time is the one with yourself,” she advised. Describing Hurd as her “equal” who fosters and elevates her light as opposed to dimming it, her contemplative words led into “To Hell & Back,” the smoldering R&B flavor of the ballad translating on stage. She then marked one of her best vocal performances of the night with a deep cut off her debut album Hero, starting “I Wish I Was” with haunting a capella that pierced through the dark stage around her, before catapulting the energy to another level with “The Middle,” turning the outdoor amphitheater into an electric karaoke session-meets-dance-party with her smash pop hit.
But the singer brought us down from the high and back to unflinching honesty with an eye-opening story that introduced “I Could Use a Love Song.” “I love telling this story because it brings me so much joy and vengeance,” she intriguingly began. Morris explained that during a pre-show meet-and-greet years ago, she asked a radio programmer what her next single should be. When she told him she wanted to release “I Could Use a Love Song,” he replied, “Please don’t put that song on the radio because people don’t want to hear a bunch of sad women on the radio.” “I did not take that programmer’s advice,” she declared, revealing that the programmer ended up getting fired while “I Could Use a Love Song” became her first No. 1 hit. “It all balances out.” The crowd softly, but steadily sang along with her on the ballad, a beautiful cello adding a peaceful element to the performance.
The empowering story of championing herself set the stage to introduce her Highwomen cohorts Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby who joined her for a trio of songs off their recently released debut self-titled album. Though fourth member Brandi Carlile was at a wedding and had to miss the show, their harmonies were still as sharp and beautiful as always, opening the set with “Loose Change,” which Morris referred to as “my hit without a record deal” that she wrote during her first year in Nashville, before the welcoming “Crowded Table” inspired the three singers to wrap their arms around one another as they encouraged acceptance and love toward all people, culminating in the bold “Redesigning Women.”
But Morris brought the spirit of the night to a place of true reflection as she paid tribute to late songwriter and producer, busbee, who passed away from brain cancer on Sept. 29. Busbee was an important figure in Morris’ career, co-writing and producing Hero with her, along with co-producing the sophomore follow-up, Girl. “I don’t know how to listen to any of my albums anymore right now,” she shared, the venue stirringly quiet as she delivered a eulogy-like speech praising his impact on her life and the Nashville community. With Hurd by her side, Morris shared how the two wrote “What Would This World Do Without You?” in his honor while he was still alive, describing it as a prayer more than a song. “I know the sun will set in the ocean, and I know we’re gonna get to where we’re going, but I still got just one question that I can’t work through, what would this world do without you,” the couple sang poignantly, the crowd silently on its feet for the duration, making for the most moving moment of the night.
But Morris didn’t leave on a somber note, instead sending us off with a “parting gift,” as she described, with her breakthrough hit “My Church” that she co-wrote with busbee. The a capella style introduction made the song feel more like a hymnal, giving us all holy redemption as the venue lit up in a sing-along that had people from the front row all the way to the lawn seats waving their hands in the air, becoming a sea of voices nearly drowning out her own, an awe-inspiring sight that proves Morris’ almighty star power is only destined to grow.