Kacey Musgraves knows her new album star-crossed is sad as hell. But on Saturday (Feb. 5) in New York City, she was determined to give fans a good time, tears be damned.

“We’re going to have fun tonight, even though this album is so f---in’ depressing, I’m so sorry,” she warned. “But we can be sad together.”

When the Star-Crossed: Unveiled tour hit Madison Square Garden, marking the country-pop icon’s first time headlining — and selling out — the historic venue, Musgraves made good on her promise, proving her album of despair doubles as an effective therapy session, and at times, the best party in town.

Inspired by her divorce from Ruston Kelly and told in three five-song acts, star-crossed introduced Musgraves’ flare for the dramatics, which were on full display in the bookends of the show. The singer opened with the title track, telling her story of heartbreak as a heart statue burned behind her; she closed the main set with her cover of Mercedes Sosa’s “gracias a la vida,” falling backwards into a pit of roses and candles.

In between, she kept the focus on the music, with melancholy anthems such as “good wife” and “cherry blossom” providing just as much catharsis as the more comforting and calming tracks on her 2018 album Golden Hour.

Kacey Musgraves Star-Crossed: Unveiled Tour - New York, NY
Theo Wargo, Getty Images

Although she’s now divorced from the man who inspired Golden Hour, Musgraves still devoted an entire segment to the 2019 Grammy Album of the Year winner, singing odes to love including “Butterflies” as if she were still a newlywed — or as she called herself earlier in the evening, a “great wife.” (Perhaps she daydreams about her new beau Cole Schafer on stage instead.)

But after the disco Dolly fervor of “High Horse,” it didn’t take long for her to venture back into sad girl territory with the acoustic one-two punch of “camera roll” and “hookup scene,” the latter of which she hilariously introduced as a “traditional gospel song about hooking up” while also advertising the condoms sold at her merch stand.

When it came time to introduce her debut single “Merry Go Round,” the only pre-Golden Hour track of the night, Musgraves made sure to call out the “day ones” who have been with her since 2012.

“I played it for the label and said, ‘I really want this song to be my first single.’ They said, ‘Umm, absolutely not. It’s going to go down in flames. It’s really depressing, and it won’t succeed at all. It’s really just too slow and depressing for a new country female to sing, so no,’” she recalled. “So naturally I was like, ‘Cool, so when’s it coming out?’”

The audience’s connection to the clever and subversive — yet always relatable — music she made in the past decade shined through at MSG, but it was most evident when Musgraves noticed a fan dressed up as the star-crossed album cover and selected him to decide the “Kaceyoke” song she would cover that night. He chose Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” all but confirming (to this writer, at least) that Musgraves is the country legend’s true successor, between their shared penchant for shaking up country norms and inspiring fervent devotion among listeners.

Closing the show with an encore of Golden Hour fan-favorite “Slow Burn” and inspirational piano ballad “Rainbow,” Musgraves resumed her post as the chill, reliable friend who knows just what to say. “It’ll all be alright,” ends “Rainbow” — a poignant message from a woman who’s been through some stuff and has come out the other side even more dazzling than before.

“I hope this is the first of many sold-out Madison Square Garden shows,” Musgraves told the crowd. Given their applause, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that there are many more to come.

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