It would have been easy for Miranda Lambert to stick to her early image as the twangry party girl with a Smith & Wesson in one hand and a glass of pink champagne in the other.
But at the ripe old age of 34, she's grabbed onto something closer to maturity.
"I use the stage for my own therapy," the Texas country singer told a near-capacity crowd Saturday night at Dos Equis Pavilion in Dallas.
"I had a [expletive] year in 2015, but the good news is, I'm a songwriter."
With that, she launched into a gorgeous solo rendition of "Tin Man," her recent ballad inspired by her divorce from singer Blake Shelton: "You give me your armor, and you can have my heart," she sang, ostensibly to the metallic man in The Wizard of Oz, but really to anyone who's been burned so badly by love they never go back.
Happy endings aren't really her thing, as she proved in several other new songs from her latest double album, The Weight of These Wings. One of the more striking ones was "Vice," a hypnotic mid-tempo song about a vinyl record junkie who spins through a series of one-night stands: "Maybe I'm addicted to goodbyes," she sang.
When the heartache started to get too thick, Lambert escaped into lighter territory, like the bluesy new strut "Highway Vagabond" and "All Kinds of Kinds," a waltz about everyday freaks fueled by mandolin and soaring slide guitar. Lambert got expert backing from her air-tight 10-piece band, but the strongest instrument of the night was her own piercing soprano.
She wasn't the only person onstage with impressive pipes. Midway through the set, she brought out Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley from her acclaimed side-project, Pistol Annies.
After a tentative start to "Hell on Heels," the Annies found their footing in the semi-comic romp "Takin' Pills." When the song ended, Lambert had a big announcement to make: "This one's not takin' a pill," she said, pointing to a grinning and noticeably pregnant Presley.
Later, the opening act Little Big Town came back to help Lambert close the show with a bang. The two acts paired their songs in themes — "Tin Man" segued into another heartache hit, "Girl Crush," and Lambert's "White Liar" morphed seamlessly into LBT's "Little White Church." Along the way, they mixed in covers ranging from Roberta Flack's soul-stirring "Killing Me Softly" to the Dixie Chick's gangsta-country #MeToo precursor "Goodbye Earl."
What began as a rainy evening ended with clear skies, a cool breeze, and a jubilant weather update from Lambert: "There's a clear radar across the board!" she announced to the delight of soggy fans up on the lawn.
For Lambert, who grew up in Van Alstyne, north of Dallas, and Lindale, near Tyler, the concert was a welcome return to familiar turf after 15 up-and-down years in the celebrity fishbowl of Nashville.
Or as the singer put it more succinctly Saturday, "It's good to be home."