This week in music: Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley play St. Paul

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About a month after country music superstar Blake Shelton played the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, it's his better half's turn.

Shelton's wife and fellow country music star Miranda Lambert will play Xcel Friday. Joining Lambert as a co-headliner on the "Locked and Reloaded" tour is country hitmaker Dierks Bentley, and Chris Stapleton and the Jukebox Mafia are on the tour as opening acts.

Lambert plays Minnesota quite often. She performed as one of the headliners at the Winstock Country Music Festival in Winsted last summer, and she also Target Center in Minneapolis last year. Friday's show at Xcel will Lambert's fifth since she opened for Keith Urban in the venue in 2005 -- and her first as a headliner.

Lambert knocked out MassLive critic Donnie Moorhouse during her stop in Hartford, Conn., in August, saying she packed "more musical heat than any of her country music contemporaries would dare to muster.

"The diminutive star offered up a 90 minute set of vitriolic “done somebody wrong” (and wait to you see what I have planned for revenge) songs that proved she is the real face (and attitude) of new country music," Moorhouse wrote.

Lambert also won over Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel music critic Erik Ernst in August as the singer played the Wisconsin State Fair.

"Her 85-minute set was a nonstop testament to girl power -- from the opening photo montage of strong women in the arts to a setlist heavy on empowering songs that were more likely to tell a beau where to go than profess lovey-dovey platitudes," Ernst wrote.

Lambert's "Locked and Reloaded" stop with Bentley in her home state of Texas last month was a little less enthusiastically received, at least by DFW.com (Dallas-Fort Worth) music critic Preston Jones.

While Jones noted the crowd was into the show, the concert felt "more rushed -- manic, almost -- than in shows past. (The first four or five songs whipped by so quickly, you’d have thought the band had a plane to catch.)."

Jones was more harsh on Bentley, calling him the "epitome of everything wrong with the direction of modern country music."

"He’s an affable, charismatic guy, unafraid to wade into the audience and say hello, but charm only carries you so far," Jones wrote. "Alternating between drinking, romancing and exploring the open road, Bentley’s catalog is aggressively bland and loaded with what Tom Petty infamously described as 'bad rock music with a fiddle.'"

Also playing Minnesota this week:

Singer-songwriter Jack Johnson plays the State Theatre in Minneapolis Monday on his "From Here to You to Now" tour.

Pop group Barenaked Ladies plays Wednesday night at the State Theatre.

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