Stagecoach has been showcasing female artists since Goldenvoice president Paul Tollett founded the festival in 2007. The names Miranda Lambert, Sugarland, and Sara Evans appeared above Willie Nelson’s on that first poster. Taylor Swift, Tricia Yearwood, and The Judds, whose matriarch, Naomi, died before Saturday’s Stagecoach began, were featured in the 2008 event, along with the Eagles.
Carrie Underwood also debuted at Stagecoach in 2008 and she returned Saturday night to provide the most momentous set of this festival.
Underwood, who has uncommon range and vocal purity, performed with more animation, athleticism and theatrical bells and whistles than at any of her three previous Stagecoach appearances.
Teaming with a Black choir on her classic, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” she seemed to be approaching Beyonce´ levels when she segued into a soul-stirring rendition of the gospel standard, “How Great Thou Art.” She followed that by dedicating “See You Again” to Naomi Judd, keeping it emotionally honest by turning it into a “human experience we can all share.”
But, three songs later she brought out frickin’ Axl Rose. The Guns N’ Roses front man, appearing in torn blue jeans, boots, and short blond hair, had to keep up with Underwood’s energy on “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Paradise City.” But the sum of these two diverse parts, and the surprise of seeing them together, created the powerful equivalent of a Coachella moment – with Stagecoach panache.