Wynonna Judd is still only as standard as her fiery red hair. The dynamic country icon, now credited simply as Wynonna, played her first show of the new decade alongside the Big Noise band at the Bing Crosby Theater on Thursday evening.
After a country rock-tinged opening set from the Big Noise, Wynonna entered and started her night with a driving cover of Elvis’ “Burning Love.” “I’ve been waiting for you all day,” Wynonna said to the near-capacity crowd at the Bing. “I’ve been doing this for 38 years. It’s been a long road. What’s kept me coming back is the music and you all.”
Wynonna then went into “Love Is Alive,” the first of several tracks in the setlist from her time as one half of country cornerstones the Judds, where she and her mother, Naomi Judd, shared success with 14 chart-topping singles.
But the music that occupied the evening’s two-hour performance wasn’t just limited to country, as it ventured into roots, gospel and blues on the wings of the Big Noise’s versatility. Between the songs was the banter, where Wynonna’s dialogue with her husband/drummer Cactus Moser and the audience was frequently as sharp as sarcastic.
One anecdote recalled Wynonna first taking an interest in Moser when the drummer’s band, Highway 101, was opening for the Judds, much to her mother’s disapproval. “My mother goes, ‘Oh, hell no. You will not date a musician,’” Wynonna said. “I said, ‘He’s not a musician – he’s a drummer.’”
The Kentucky-born singer-guitarist continued with “I Saw the Light” and later “No One Else on Earth,” two No. 1 smashes from her eponymous debut effort that sold more than 3 million records.
When Wynonna and company returned to the stage for an encore, she said, “There’s commercial success and then there’s the personal stuff. This next song just happened to be both.” Then she launched into “Young Love.”
Moser then dedicated a cover of “I Just Want to Celebrate” to Spokane resident and Rare Earth drummer/singer Peter Rivera, with Wynonna taking up percussion for the song. Moser’s tribute also made a point of one of the night’s only weaknesses, where the drums, pushed up to the front of the stage, drowned out all of the other instruments in the mix.
Even when Moser exchanged his drums for a mandolin in the show’s acoustic section, the sonic balance still struggled and was often overwhelmed by the casual volume of the crowd.
Still, a poor mix didn’t deter the group’s tight musicianship, and the night came to a close with the Grammy Award-winning “Love Can Build a Bridge” which generated a crowd-wide singalong and one of the night’s most-sincere reactions from Wynonna: “That was worth the trip right there. Thank you for the gift of tonight.”
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