Singer Maren Morris was burning through adjectives Thursday night at House of Blues describing what it felt like to play a sold-out show for 1,500 adoring fans in her hometown.
"Surreal," the 26-year-old Arlington native said. "So emotional," she added a few moments later.
Let's add another adjective: well-deserved.
Morris didn't reinvent the country-pop wheel with her 2016 major-label debut, Hero, but her concert was a reminder that she's the complete package -- a strong singer and a radio-smart songwriter who's more soulful than her glossy image would suggest.
She looked like a music video come to life as a high-powered fan gave her long blonde-brown hair a permanent windswept look, like she was frolicking on a beach. A big "Hero" sign glowed and changed colors above the stage throughout the show, as if the concert were one big ad for her album.
In a sense, it was. Bypassing her three independent albums, Morris focused almost exclusively on Hero, starting with "Sugar," her contribution to the growing mountain of pop songs that equate love with yummy edibles. In that tune, she showed off a hip-hoppy singing style which she returned to several times later with mixed results. Her Beyoncé-like R&B leanings shone, but her attempt at rapping felt lethargic.
Morris was at her best on slower tunes that let her explore a bluesier side, like "Space," which could have been sung by Patsy Cline, or "Bummin' Cigarettes," which added some grit to her pure, tender alto.
One of the show's high points arrived in the smoldering ballad "Once," as Morris dropped to her knees and pleaded with an old flame to give her another chance.
She got expert help throughout the show from her backing quartet, especially Bennett Dean Lewis, who anchored several tunes with earthy slide guitar. But the sharpest sounds were Morris' own 24-karat melodies.
From the singalong pop of "80s Mercedes" to the semi-comic country of "Drunk Girls Don't Cry," Morris showed off a half-dozen species of ear worms. "Rich" -- with a catchy bass line lifted directly from Steve Miller's "The Joker" -- had the whole house singing the lyrics as Morris put down the mike and listened with pride.
But the catchiest tune of the night was "My Church," her gospel-flavored ode to Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Sr. and every other musician who's ever lifted her spirit and washed away her sins. In February, "My Church" won Morris a Grammy for best solo country performance. On Thursday, she vowed "I'm gonna take you to church!" and then delivered on her promise, singing the tune with sultry fervor as fans raised their hands in worship to a great song perfectly sung.