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Post Malone Turns Stagecoach Into ’90s/’00s Night, and Miranda Lambert Gets ‘Fancy’-ful With Reba, on Fest’s Guest-Star-Studded Night 2

Beyoncé did not show up. Reba did. And it was enough. At least it was for the 70,000 in Indio watching the Stagecoach festival live, if not necessarily all of the probably hundreds of thousands more tuned in at home strictly in hopes of a Bey sighting. As single ladies doubling up, Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire may not quite have broken the internet the way a “Cowboy Carter” cameo would have, but in the flesh, it felt like their climactic three-song duets segment sure broke Stagecoach.

Miranda Lambert and Reba McEntire perform at the T-Mobile Mane Stage during the 2024 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Club on April 27, 2024 in Indio, California.Getty Images for Stagecoach

And for his part, Post Malone did not need the help of any of the superstar artists whose albums he’s had featured appearances on to be a hit at Stagecoach. His penultimate set on the main stage Saturday was, as billed, a performance of all country covers (with a billboard on the way out to the festival site offering an 800 number where he was supposedly taking requests). He didn’t necessarily make any breaking news with his time on stage, unless good taste in Alan Jackson covers is news. But his emphasis on the 1990s/2000s hits of his childhood and youth (plus Tyler Childers, for good modern measure) would have captivated the crowd even without Dwight Yoakam, Brad Paisley and Sara Evans showing up to seal the deal.

“How’s he doing?” Paisley asked the crowd of 75,000 during his extended time on stage. “I think he’s made for this.”

Posty’s opening song, Childers’ 2013 “Purgatory,” nearly counted as an oldie, albeit one that may not have been familiar to everyone in the crowd. With its chorus references to cocaine, some fans who don’t know Childers’ catalog may have wondered if this was an obscure number from the ’70s outlaw-country movement. But from there on, there would have been nothing for anyone with the slightest grounding in turn-of-the-century mainstream country to not recognize. Before he was finished, Malone touched on some of country’s corniest sentimental songs (George Strait’s “Check Yes or No,” Tim McGraw’ “Don’t Take the Girl”), some of its corniest but funniest (Paisley’s “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” Toby Keith’s “Who’s Your Daddy”), one of its most rocking (Vince Gill’s “One More Last Chance”) and one of its most reverent and sobering (Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses”).

 

He could have been mistaken for a true country traditionalist if not for his habit of inserting the F-word into literally every sentence, or close to it, between numbers. (Evans may have been the only person in his set who did not get an F-bomb as their new middle name, or at least a prefix.) But first up among his guests was Yoakam, who’d had the top spot in the Palomino tent the night before, walking out partway into “Little Ways.” Earlier in the set, Malone had done a little bit of wiggling, so it seemed clear he was familiar with Yoakam’s ouevre.

Evans got the classic “Suds in the Bucket” all to herself as a lead vocalist, as Malone apparently decided he was not the one to tell a young woman’s story. (“Suds,” for any younger fans who may not be familiar with it, is basically the precursor to Taylor Swift’s “But Daddy I Love Him.”)

But the most stage time was given over to MVP Paisley, who sidled up alongside Malone for a duet of the fish-over-ho’s anthem “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” stayed on stage to be a Gill proxy as guitar soloist on “One More Last Chance,” and then returned at set’s end for more fireworks on “Chattahoochie,” as Jelly Roll came out and sang along. Paisley may have gotten more soloing time than he bargained for; the set went several minutes past its scheduled ending time as Malone worked the ramp to sign autographs and pose for pictures, while the band, Paisley included, vamped through a very extended outro.

By all rights, Lambert should have had a hard time following that. She did not. Even without the added power of a big McEntire attack, Lambert reminded the audience — song by song — that she has a strong a catalog as anyone in country music, and that on top of that, she has an hour and a half’s worth of rich, recognizable, high-concept bangers, with only “Bluebird,” “Tin Man” and obviously “The House That Built Me” built into the set as mellow moments. Her band played with a consistent rock ‘n’ roll fury, albeit with steel guitar licks now laden liberally over almost everything… to everything’s benefit. Whoever the entertainer of the year may be at any given recent point, Lambert has a strong claim on being country’s entertainer of the two-decades.

“Drunk (and I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” was performed as a duet, albeit with Lambert’s backup singer, not Elle King, who had apparently moved on after playing the main stage Friday night. (King, who rearranged some of her material to better befit the rock band she’s out with, had done a less immediately recognizable version of their joint hit the night before, albeit still a good one.) Even though it represented a moment of shared and not individual glory in her career, Lambert’s “Drunk” felt like a natural set climax, especially when someone hit the pyro button for finale-suggestive fireworks.

That wasn’t the case, as Lambert called out the need for “a sexy redhead from Oklahoma” to join her, and assuming there had not been a reconciliation and a hair coloring session with her ex, this meant McEntire, who braved the insane desert winds to join Lambert for a dynamite denouement. The hardest-rocking version ever of Reba’s “Fancy” was sandwiched between duet versions of “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Gunpowder & Lead,” before the fireworks lever got pushed a second and final time. How potent it would be to get a co-headlining tour between these two, capped by an extended, explosive moment like the one this show ended with? Surely this space won’t be the first or last time where that idea gets floated.

 

Miranda Lambert and Reba at StagecoachJeff Johnson

Willie Nelson kept the “features” in his set to immediate family — as might have been guessed from the “Willie Nelson and Family” banner. It, too, was the source of some speculation about a Beyonce guest appearance, due to his recent appearance on “Cowboy Carter”… and because, you know, Beyonce casually sits in on other people’s acoustic-oriented sets so often. (Actually, sources insisted she was at Stagecoach undercover, to observe, just as she allegedly had snuck into Coachella earlier this month, but we’ll believe it when we… still don’t see it?)

Willie Nelson at StagecoachChris Willman/Variety

Whoever was tuning into Nelson’s set on the festival’s Prime Video/Twitch livestream just for the possibility of hearing Beyonce sing “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboy Carters” got quite an inculcation into the most classic country of the last half-century. Hustling through 18 songs in just 45 minutes (if the closing instrumental of “I Saw the Light” during his final bows counts), Nelson established that, yes, OK, there are still living country superstars with even greater catalogs than Lambert’s. But for all the perennials like “Whiskey River” on view again — not to mention the still-underrated “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” one of the greatest breakup songs ever written — the set’s highlight may have been the sound of Willie and Lukas sharing sublime family harmonies on Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe.”

Willie Nelson at StagecoachChris Willman/Variety

Nelson has a hard time settling on reverence or irreverence — which is exactly as it should be, and as you’d hope — so the expected gospel finale of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away” was sandwiched right between two songs that take the piss out of everything, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” and “It’s Hard to Be Humble.” Nelson also brought out a few less mandatory songs from his early catalog, like “I Never Cared for You,” the least reciprocated song title in Stagecoach history.

With Post Malone and Nelson both dressing down for the occasion, Lambert had the clear lead in the day’s best-dressed competition, decked out in gorgeous, turquoise-accented Western-wear (with a hat that surely had to have been crazy-glued onto her head, given the wind gusts she understandably kept remarking on). She had some competition there, of course, with the always stylish Charley Crockett, one of the highlights Saturday in the Palomino tent, where he made the most of original songs from his just-released “$10 Cowboy” album that recall country’s golden era as surely as Nelson’s tunes from that actual period did.

Charley Crockett at StagecoachChris Willman/Variety

Other highlights in Stagecoach’s hump day included an early-afternoon set from Tanner Adell, one of the featured artists on “Cowboy Carter,” establishing her own breakout potential; Maddie & Tae, getting their own set after getting the spotlight from Jelly Roll during his on Friday night; Asleep at the Wheel, bringing Ray Benson’s 50-plus venerable years of swing to the tent; and Leon Bridges, a welcome outlier from outside the genre — but a natural fit — as the day’s Palomino headliner. The Palomino was never more packed to overflowing than when “Yellowstone’s” Luke Grimes turned in a mid-afternoon set of material from his recent release (momentarily emptying Paramount+’s “Yellowstone” installation nearby), or for EDM carpetbagger Diplo’s after-hours set that allowed lingering festivalgoers to rave it up after Lambert’s rocking.

 

Could Beyoncé still show up on Sunday? Anything’s possible — except for that happening during Morgan Wallen’s headlining set, because we’re pretty sure that is not possible. But Sunday does promise performances from three more artists who appeared on the “Cowboy Carter” album: Shaboozey, Willie Jones and Brittney Spencer. Other draws for Sunday include the War and Treaty, Megan Moroney, Clint Black, Bailey Zimmerman, Pam Tillis, Ashley Cooke, the Beach Boys and an after-hours closing set from Wiz Khalifa.

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