REVIEW: Maren Morris Wraps ‘Humble Quest’ Tour With Triumphant Nashville Show
Since moving to Nashville nearly ten years ago, Maren Morris has gone from playing dive bars and writers' rounds to headlining Bridgestone Arena. The importance of that career milestone wasn't lost on the prolific songwriter, who took the stage for a memorable performance on Friday (Dec 2).
"This is truly astounding to me," she told the audience shortly after kicking off her set. "I've been in this room many times, and I've sat across the street many times. Today was the first time I got to walk in here and know it was my stage."
She reflected on the decade she'd spent in Music City, recalling each stop along the way that led her to the biggest room in town.
"Next month, I will have lived in Nashville for ten years," she said. "I was just saying to my team, we didn't skip any milestone. I went from Belcourt Taps to little bars to the Basement East to Ascend [Amphitheater] to here."
She brought a lot of her friends along to commemorate the occasion. While the Bridgestone Arena performance was technically part of the Humble Quest Tour, her other dates wrapped over a month ago. This stand-alone hometown show was a celebration of her career. Bringing along some friends was predictable, but who that'd be was not entirely.
Sure, it was easy to assume that her husband and frequent collaborator Ryan Hurd would show. He joined her early for "I Can't Love You Anymore," then for a rendition of their duet, "Chasing After You," and again during the encore for an acoustic version of "What Would This World Do?"
Some version of her supergroup, The Highwomen, was also fairly predictable. Sheryl Crow, Amanda Shires, Natalie Hemby and Brittney Spencer joined Morris for the band's "Redesigning Women" and "Crowded Table."
But what was not predictable was a moment of Broadway on (Lower) Broadway. Maren Morris welcomed Kristin Chenoweth to the stage for a version of "For Good" from Wicked. Morris noted that she is a longtime fan of the iconic musical and that Chenoweth had recently moved to Nashville.
"Did somebody get that on video?" Morris joked after the moment.
She also welcomed Hozier to the stage for a duet version of her recent hit, "The Bones."
"The waiting makes the fruit so much sweeter," she told the audience. "I can't thank you enough for your support over the years. This one went to the top right when the world shut down. I always wanted to play this song in here to y'all."
There was an obvious elephant in the room. Just two months prior to Friday's performance, Jason Aldean took to the same stage and mentioned Morris as a possible special guest, leading to a stream of boos from the crowd. The reaction spawned from a public debate between Morris and Aldean's wife, Brittany, after Aldean voiced transphobic comments about gender-affirming surgery. Morris briefly addressed the situation indirectly.
"After having a son and the pandemic, I didn't know if I wanted to go back and write a song," she said. "Motherhood is humbling. I learned when to shut the [expletive] up and when to not shut the f--- up. If I ever get to play here again, and I'll say this tonight, this is a place of love, and I don't need to say anything else."
That was it. Morris let her songwriting and guitar do the rest of the work during her nearly two-hour-long set. She began the night with some of her latest, opening with "The Furthest Thing" and lead Humble Quest single "Circles Around This Town" right out of the gate. Morris sprinkled in some older favorites along the way, including "80s Mercedes," "Rich," and arguably her biggest hit, "The Middle," her pop crossover smash with Zedd. Finally, she closed out the full-band set with "the one about a church."
With this performance, Maren Morris made it clear that she's earned the right to headline Nashville's biggest stage and likely will for many years to come. Although her live sets have evolved from her early days in the round, she's deciphered how to make each performance unique and memorable in its own way.
It's clear this night will never be forgotten by Morris, understandably so. Her headlining debut spotlighted the hard work that's earned her an arena audience in her own backyard and beyond, an achievement only outshined by Morris' immense gratitude.