Maren Morris’s Humble Quest tour with special guest The Lone Bellow supercharged the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre stage on Thursday night.
In a sold-out show, fans in Daisy Dukes grooved alongside those in cargo shorts to the lively sounds of a country pop star on the rise. Morris attracts a diverse audience who love her country-pop tunes and crossover adult contemporary chart toppers. National Public Radio’s Ann Powers described Morris as the “country artist most gracefully poised at the spot where future thinking meets time-honored ways.”
Morris inhabits a space between country and commercial pop and she brings a high-production stage show that appeals to a larger audience. She is following a trail blazed by Taylor Swift and others, like The Chicks, who established themselves in country music only to abandon twang for mainstream pop stardom.
She opened her show with three songs from her new album, Humble Quest. “The Furthest Thing” has a more singer-songwriter feel (more NPR than Daisy Duke). “Circles Around This Town” is a terrific new single offering a straightforward country-pop sound (more Daisy Duke than NPR). She kicked up a little Texas red dirt with “I Can’t Love You Anymore.”
She rocked the house with a high-energy rendition of “80s Mercedes.” In the chorus’ final refrain, “I’m a 90s baby in my 80s Mercedes,” Morris sings a hint of Taylor Swift-like styling. She took the audience to “The Middle,” singing her pop mega-hit, about a third of the way through her set. Then she brought us along on a detour performing a bold country-pop rendition of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” Her version of Apple’s epic song from her 1996 album Tidal reminds us that some records need to be rediscovered with every new generation. Illuminated with a great light show, Morris confidently rocked “Nervous.” She then lulled us back to Humble Quest with “Hummingbird,” a beautiful folk acoustic standout on an album peppered with well-crafted songs.
In all, Morris played 21 songs. She didn’t perform a traditional encore. Instead, she simply cranked up her energy for the final lap. In her run to the finish line she invited the crowd to join her in a rousing sing along to “Rich” and “The Bones,” two clever fan favorites. For the finale she performed the song that earned her a Grammy for Best Solo Country Performance, “My Church,” a fun heretical tune about finding a secular soul revival while listening to classic country music.
Morris told the crowd that she hand-picked artists she admired for the opening acts for this tour. Fortunately for us, she chose The Lone Bellow to open for her in Salt Lake. They’re an Americana trio that expanded into a quintet for the tour. They opened with “Dried Up River,” a beautifully harmonized and soulful track from their excellent new album Half Moon Light. They played nine songs, leaving me wanting more. “Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold” and “Count On Me” were standouts. This is an under-the-radar band that I want to see again as a headliner in a more intimate listening room.
Maren Morris brought a well-designed and energetic show to the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre with a setlist that appealed to a broad audience. Fans who sparkled in all their country glam or rocked their dad bods in 90s concert t-shirts embraced her diverse musical expression. She’s a unique talent with a voice that can’t be pigeonholed into any one genre. Penning her own great songs and putting on a highly entertaining live show, Morris’ future seems limitless.
- Who: Maren Morris with special guest The Lone Bellow
- What: Humble Quest Tour
- Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
- When: Aug. 18, 2022
- More info: redbuttegarden.org