Miranda Lambert shows her vulnerable side

It was an emotional night for country’s Miranda Lambert Wednesday as she resumed her 'On Fire' tour at Bojangles’ Coliseum just a week after losing father-in-law Dick Shelton (Lambert is married to fellow country singer and “The Voice” judge Blake Shelton). Wednesday’s show was originally scheduled for Thursday, January 19.

“My tough girl image has gone to crap tonight,” she deadpanned at the end of the show. While her fans love that tough girl who sings of setting fire to and shooting cheaters and abusive beaus, they also admire the vulnerability revealed in songs like her mega hit “The House that Built Me.” Soldiering through a tear-stained performance only endeared her to fans more.

Her fragility wasn’t evident from the get-go. Following performances from openers Charlie Worsham, who subbed for scheduled act Jerrod Niemann, and Chris Young, who sang hit after hit with spot-on vocals and ample charisma, Lambert took the stage to Beyonce’s “Girls” as images of powerful women who’ve influenced her (Patsy, Loretta, Oprah, Dolly, Reba) flashed on screen. Wearing a floral purple party dress, a black leather vest, knee high boots, and pink tights Lambert kicked off her set with “Fastest Girl in Town” from her latest album “Four the Record.” Despite a lack of pyro, the excitement escalated with “Kerosene,” her career breakout. She followed it with “Heart Like Mine.”

She started the next song, “New Strings” (an early single, which she wrote) in the wrong key and stumbled over the lyrics at one point. That’s when the audience realized that this good time girl might not be having the best night. The song never quite fell apart though. She forged ahead wiping tears away with a towel and miming the word “Sorry” before rallying at the end twirling and clapping.

There was uncertainty as she took a seat on the catwalk (pictured above) for “More Like Her” that she’d make it through the slower ballad. She did before bringing things back up with “Baggage Claim” (which she introduced by referencing her bad week), the sexy throwback “Fine Tune” (performed on a chaise lounge), and a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend.” Her voice soared on “Dead Flowers” and her trademark winking charm was at its height during “Famous in a Small Town” and “Only Prettier.” She didn’t falter until “The House That Built Me.” She made it through the first few bars then turned the microphone stand toward the audience who carried the rest of the verse and chorus. After another chorus, she came back in on the bridge and finished the song. “Thank you” she mimed. Few eyes were dry (including my sister’s. She sang through her own tears, later telling me “I felt like I had to help her out”).

While many artists would’ve taken a longer break following the death of a loved one, Lambert, who was already scheduled to play Baltimore today, didn’t make Charlotte fans wait long - a decision that proved difficult for her. Yet country music built its reputation on emotional songs about heartbreak, heartache, and getting through. The audience gravitates toward performers that seem like “real” people singing songs normal people can relate to and Lambert’s struggle made her even more relatable.

She capped the set with “The Way the World Goes Round,” “Gunpowder & Lead” and “White Liar.” She refrained from singing “Over You,” the new single she and Shelton wrote for his father and deceased brother. The latter died when Shelton was 14. Considering the trouble she had with “House,” she noted, singing that one would be impossible. Instead she encored with Aretha Franklin’s “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” Lambert doesn’t toy with showy vocal gymnastics much, but her rendition proved that she’s certainly capable. She ended the set with drink in hand flanked by Worsham and Young who joined her on Waylon Jennings’ “Honky Tonk Heroes.” Worsham’s lines were shaky, so he stuck to guitar for most of the song. But she and Young finished on an up note leaving the stage arm and arm.

“Don’t tell anyone I criedor I’ll kick your a**,” she threatened earlier while lamenting her tough image. But her performance just reiterated her strength. Lesser women who the industry considers divas would have stomped off stage and cancelled the rest of the show.