Kacey Musgraves closes ACL with Southern charm, special guest

Sage Dunlap, Life and Arts Associate Editor

Washed in bright red lighting, a harp ushered Kacey Musgraves onstage to begin her set with the Shakespearean album introduction — and title — “star-crossed.”

As she sang out the song’s title, a looming heart lit up in flames, illuminating Musgraves who basked in the crowd’s cheers. 

“I hope you had a great ACL. Thank you for ending it with me,” Musgraves said, jumping into what would be one of two remaining headline sets of the entire two-weekend festival.

On the heels of her third nationwide stadium tour, Musgraves returned to her home state as an Austin City Limits headliner. The country-pop star closed out this year’s festival with a grandiose performance of sweet country love songs, country-pop ballads, chronicling her 2020 divorce and a surprise guest. 

Starting with the stinging country tune “good wife” and self-empowerment anthem “breadwinner,” Musgraves transitioned into songs from her Grammy-winning 2018 album Golden Hour — a change marked by a booming voice commanding the audience “Let’s go back to the beginning.”

Following a vibrant, flashy performance of “High Horse,” Musgraves returned to her microphone stand, guitar in hand, and requested that someone bring her a drink. Heeding the singer’s order, gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke emerged on stage with a beer in hand. While the singer did not make any verbal statements about the candidate, the surprise appearance of O’Rourke just weeks ahead of voting garnered an explosive audience reaction. 

Born and raised in Golden, Texas, Musgraves made a point to connect with her largely Texan audience. The singer gushed about the activities she loves doing in Austin, including visiting BookPeople and riding Lime scooters on Guadalupe Street — details which made the Zilker showcase feel even more sentimental. In particular, the artist’s country roots shined in her performance. Ending with her Golden Hour album opener “Slow Burn,” Musgraves strummed the song alone on stage, enamoring the Zilker audience with an acoustic melody and her sweet Southern twang. As the crowd prepared to exit Zilker one last time, Musgraves gave a warm Texan send-off.