Maren Morris Doesn’t Skip Any Steps at Reflective Nashville Headlining Show

Maren Morris pulled out all the stops for her first headlining show at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Friday night (Dec. 2), bringing out a slew of heavy-hitting guests that ran the gamut from Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth to Grammy-nominated “Take Me to Church” singer Hozier.

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Morris opened the show not with a lively number that’s typical in an arena, but with the mellow “The Furthest Thing.” The song brought the audience to its feet, setting the tone for an evening that balanced high energy with thoughtful introspection. The crowd remained standing for “Circles Around This Town” and “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” wherein she invited husband Ryan Hurd to join her on the latter.

“I cry at simple things, so this is going to be an overload tonight,” she warned, conveying the weight of what the opportunity to headline Bridgestone meant to her. Morris recalled how she’d been an opening act there, won (and lost) awards, and has even frequented bars across the street. But she experienced an indescribable feeling when she walked in as the headliner.

“I can’t tell you how much that means to me,” she said of the location for the final night of The Humble Quest Tour. “It felt appropriate to end it on my doorstep.”

It was the first of many sincere statements throughout the show that was as much a retrospection of her career so far as it was a celebration of new music. Morris reflected on how she “didn’t skip any steps” along the way, from humble beginnings playing local bars to graduating to the historic Ryman Auditorium and Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville on her way to being an arena headliner. The singer later advised the aspiring songwriters in the crowd to “stay patient” on their own road to success. “The waiting makes the fruits so much sweeter,” she affirmed. 

Empowerment and acceptance were subtle, yet core themes of the show. No. 1 hit “Girl” featured Morris on guitar while her strong voice filled with confidence, proving that her halo is still shining bright. Morris defined what the night was about when she got real about how becoming a mother and living through the pandemic humbled her, inspiring the title of her 2022 album, Humble Quest. She also nodded to her role as a crusader for equity and inclusion in country music, such as speaking out when the video of Morgan Wallen using the N-word surfaced online in February 2021 and more recently calling out Jason Aldean’s wife Brittany Aldean when she made comments that were seemingly transphobic in an Instagram post.

“I kind of learned a bit where the line is when to shut the fuck up and then absolutely when to not shut up the fuck up,” Morris professed about what she’s learned over the past few years before getting to the heart of the matter. “If I ever get to play here again, and I will say this tonight, this is a place of love.”

She also shone her light on others, like when she brought out her The Highwomen cohorts Amanda Shires and Natalie Hemby, minus founding member Brandi Carlile, who was replaced by Sheryl Crow and stellar rising country star and opening act Brittney Spencer to perform the sassy “Redesigning Women” before leaning into empathy on “Crowded Table.” Wrapping their arms around one another as they sang about creating a space where everyone’s a little broken / And everyone belongs reflected the love that Morris spoke to earlier. That love could be seen across the room, with women of all generations, and many male fans, dancing to “80s Mercedes” and “Rich” as much as they were singing along to the lyrics of “Girl.”

It’s worth noting that Morris’ bandmate Annie Clements truly shone, not just because of the rhinestone-clad black jumpsuit she was wearing, but because she is more than a guitarist. She’s a spirited performer who takes on the personality of every song, playing as passionately as Morris sings. She’s a badass who can still hold her own on the bass guitar, even when she’s nine months pregnant (and one inch dilated, Morris confirmed onstage). 

One of the many highlights of the night came when Morris introduced Tony Award-winning actress Chenoweth, who originated the role of Glinda when Wicked debuted on Broadway in 2003 alongside Idina Menzel’s Elphaba, much to the crowd’s delight. Earlier this year, Morris revealed that she is a big fan of Wicked, so much so that she shared an audition tape singing “Defying Gravity” that got her a call back and Chenoweth’s seal of approval. Rearranging her schedule so she could make an appearance, Chenoweth raved about how “talented” and deserving Morris is of her success before they launched into a stunning rendition of the beloved, “For Good.” Their voices blended mellifluously, with Morris proving that she does have Broadway-worthy pipes in one of the most touching moments of the night. 

Morris also embraced her own journey of self-discovery as she sang “Humble Quest,” projecting a genuineness in her delivery that she carried into “Detour,” which finds her throwing caution to the wind and enjoying the journey instead of trying to control it. One could feel the power of the song as she reprised might take the long way / It ain’t the wrong way in unison with Clements and background singer Rachel Beauregard, which sounded like a positive affirmation.

After rousing renditions of “The Bones” with surprise guest Hozier, and the hit that started it all with “My Church,” which had the seats rocking as fans sang and danced along, Morris returned to the stage for a one-song encore that packed a punch with “What Would This World Do?” The song served as a tribute to her friend and late producer busbee, who passed away suddenly in 2019 from brain cancer.

Morris was transparent as she spoke about wondering if it’s okay to look back on the past, and upon giving herself permission to do so, realized that the people you meet in life remain with you in spirit even after they’re gone. She shared how she hasn’t performed the heartbreaking ballad that became the closing track of Humble Quest live since the last time she headlined Nashville at Ascend Ampitheater in 2019 and felt compelled to sing it again to honor of all the “memories in the room.”

A hush fell over the crowd as nearly 20,000 people sat in silence and simply listened to Morris pour her heart into the lyrics, her voice cracking with emotion as she sang I know the sun will set into 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? With tears in her eyes, she left the crowd with a promise: “I’m going to write some more songs so we can do this again.” 

Photo: Harper Smith / Sacks & Co.

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