Many of the acts tapped so far for Season 43 of “Austin City Limits” have never been on the show before: the Pretenders last month, Benjamin Booker next week, Angel Olsen in July, the Zac Brown Band in August. As such, Tuesday night’s taping with native Texan country star Miranda Lambert was kind of a touch-home-base affair.
Lambert’s first “ACL” appearance was in 2006, and she returned in 2011. A seasoned veteran of the program now, she still had a lot of new territory to cover since she was last at ACL Live, during the show’s first year downtown after the move from its former University of Texas campus studio.
For starters, she’s released essentially three albums, following up 2014’s “Platinum” with last fall’s 24-song double-disc “The Weight of These Wings.” Lambert featured seven tracks from the latter release in a 19-song set that was carefully constructed to build gradually from lighter pop numbers to heavier, more rocking material.
The forward half of the stage was almost completely free of equipment, allowing Lambert and the front line of her band — guitarists Alex Weeden (from Austin), Jerry Massey and Scotty Wray, plus backup singer Gwen Sebastian — to roam free with their cordless instruments. On the riser behind, keyboardist Daniel Mitchell, bassist Glenn Worf, drummer Matt Chamberlain (originally of Edie Brickell & New Bohemians) and multi-instrumentalist Spencer Cullum nailed things down with tasteful support.
Highlights from the new album included “Ugly Lights,” which segued directly into “Mama’s Broken Heart” from Lambert’s 2011 release “Four the Record”; and the early-set triptych of “For the Birds,” “Vice” and “We Should Be Friends.” The audience was fairly low-key and reserved until later in the set, when the back-to-back “Platinum” tracks “Automatic” and “Little Red Wagon” stirred things up a bit.
The crew brought out Lambert’s trademark long-rifle mic stand for the main-set closer “Gunpowder and Lead.” But a more special moment was her cover of Little Feat’s “Willin’,” underscoring Lambert’s connection to classic rock material that reaches well beyond the bounds of mainstream country.
Best of all was the encore, a solo acoustic rendition of “Tin Man” from the new album. Explaining that she and co-writers Jack Ingram and Jon Randall “took equal parts of each other’s pain and put it down on paper,” she turned what had otherwise been a somewhat detached and “ordinary” performance into a very poignant and personal one. Don’t be surprised if she and Ingram sing it together at the same venue on Thursday night, when Lambert returns for a sold-out show with Ingram opening as part of his Mack, Jack & McConaughey fundraiser.
2. Highway Vagabond
3. Heart Like Mine
4. For the Birds
6. We Should Be Friends
7. Over You
8. All Kinds of Kinds
9. The House that Built Me
10. Pink Sunglasses
11. Ugly Lights/Mama’s Broken Heart
12. Fastest Girl in Town
15. Little Red Wagon
16. White Liar
17. Gunpowder and Lead
18. Tin Man