Closing KCRW’s final, concert of the County In The City concert series, inspired by The Annenberg Space for Photography’s newest exhibit,“Country: Portraits of an American Sound,” was one of the most popular and revered female country artists of her, and perhaps all, time: Wynonna Judd.
It’s funny. If you had asked me in high school if I wanted to go to a country concert, I would have played the “too cool for school” card and scoffed at the idea. Growing up in Southern California during the early 90’s, I was more interested in West Coast hip hop, ska and punk. Country music was far off my radar.
Flash forward to after I had graduated from college, and during my heavy R&B phase, I heard a cover of Brian McKnight’s “Back At One” … as a country tune … and I liked it. It was covered by Mark Wills, and it was at that moment I realized that good music is good music was good music, regardless of whether it’s sung with a twang or not.
Though I didn’t tout it to my friends, I started adding country music to my music collection with Rascal Flatts and Garth Brooks CDs, which has, over the years, exposed me to artists that I love like Loretta Lynn, Sugarland and Valerie June. When I got approved to be in the photo pit for Wynonna Judd’s set, I nearly lost my mind. I was so excited, that I actually posted a status update on my Facebook page about getting approved to … I guess … brag about it to my friends; even if a greater majority of them aren’t country fans themselves.
Look, we’re talking about an artist who has achieved legend status. With The Judds (an American country music duo with her mother, Naomi), she won seven straight Academy of Country Music awards for Top Vocal Duo, three straight Country Music Association Vocal Group of the Year awards, four straight Country Music Association Vocal Duo of the Year awards, and five Grammy Awards for Best Country Performance by a duo or Group with Vocal. As a solo artist, Wynonna has won an Academy of Country Music Female Artist of the Year award and earned a star on the Muisc City Walk of Fame. Wynonna isn’t just a country singer. She’s a country legend. Period.
Wynonna’s performance was a revelation.
Having started her career at the age of 16, she demonstrated her easy command of the stage. She expressed her whole range emotions during each of her songs, but would engage the audience in between songs with playful banter and sincere thanks.
She joked about having to be in a tour bus with her mother. When the audience laughed, she deadpanned, “It’s not funny. Have you ever been in a bus with your mom?”
While throwing out guitar picks to ravenous fans in the front row, she joked that she was, “here to satisfy all of your musical needs,” and kept throwing out music pics.
After performing “Why Not Me”, a song she labeled as The Judds’ theme song, someone in the audience yelled out another song titled with the hopes of it being performed. Wynonna looked in the direction of the over anxious fan and said, “Hold your horses, sister. I’ll get to it. And if you don’t hear your song tonight … I got one word…” (insert dramatic pause for effect), “Download.” The crowd erupted with laughter.
When she wasn’t being humorous, she told life stories and imparted personal, positive life mantras, at one point proclaiming that “We need to be mindful of what we have now… What makes it complete for me is seeing you all here enjoying my music,” and explaining that, “In country music, we take tragedy and turn it into triumph,” before talking about the accident that took her husband’s leg and the doctors who told him that he’d never play the drums again.
“Doctors are not god. My husband is now the bionic man,” point to he husband at his drum kit, revealing his prosthetic leg.
They had a special guest, bassist Nathan East, join them onstage for a song before they played their last song of the set.
“I love a funk man with a bass,” she said.
When Wynonna and the band left the stage, the crowd clearly didn’t want to leave, and an encore was in order. Her husband, and drummer, Cactus Mosher, reintroduced Wynonna, “Please welcome back the queen onto the stage.”
“Does that mean you want more? All right, I don’t want to go anyways,” Wynonna slyly smiled.
She introduced her encore by reminiscing that she’s been performing for the past 30 years, and that she is planning on touring more this year, “getting away with as much as [she] could get away with”, hinting what was to come by stating that she grew up listening to roots rock.
And with that, she and the band jumped into a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”. Waling away during the chorus, the crowd was jamming to her rendition when it started to rain. Yup … Wynonna Judd made it rain. Now, that’s the stuff of legend.
The Big Noise – Band Members:
- Cactus Mosher – Drums
- Justin Weaver – Guitar
- Tom Hannum – Steel guitar
- Peter King – Keyboard/B3
- Dow Tomlin – Bass
Set List: Wynonna Judd didn’t release a setlist, but I took a partial picture of what may have been the setlist for this setthat was taped on the bongos of her drummer’s drum kit. If you were at the show, and know what songs she performed, please put them in the comments and I’ll include them into the post.