Concert Review: Loretta Lynn @ 9:30 Club

Juli Thanki | December 8th, 2008

Loretta Lynn 930 ClubWASHINGTON — Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club first made a name for itself some thirty years ago hosting bands like Black Flag, X, and Minor Threat. Loretta Lynn is no punk rocker, but she’s been shaking up the status quo and sticking it to the man since Henry Rollins was an angry toddler. Thus it is only fitting that Lynn appear at the 9:30, and her first appearance at the club since 2002 was well worth the wait.

The sold out crowd was really something to behold: becardiganed hipsters shoulder to shoulder with graying geezers, all united in sheer adoration for the Coal Miner’s Daughter. Anything Lynn did was received with thunderous applause: drinking from her water bottle, forgetting the words to “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” threatening to give her son a whupping, it didn’t matter.

And that adoration is well earned, because after forty-five years in the music business Loretta Lynn can still belt out a song like a singer half her age. For 90 minutes she wowed the audience with nearly all of her hits, from “Honky Tonk Girl” to “Portland Oregon,” with a few surprises thrown in, such as her version of the Bellamy Brothers’ hit “Let Your Love Flow,” with which she opened her show. She and her male backup singers also formed a quartet for a few gospel songs sung with all the fervor of a tent revival.

Aside from her solo hits, Lynn donated a fair amount of her set to the songs she sang with Conway Twitty, her son Ernest joining her on a rather inappropriate mother-child duet of “Feelins,” and rhythm guitarist Bert Hansen sang Twitty’s part on “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.” Lynn then shared with the crowd the story of Twitty’s death; Lynn’s husband, Doo, had suffered a heart attack in Branson and was admitted to the hospital in Springfield. On his way to visit the Lynns at the hospital, Twitty passed out and died of an aneurysm. Both Lynn and audience were briefly subdued after that, but things quickly picked up again, thanks in part to some banter with both her son and the crowd.

Indeed, Loretta Lynn’s show is a family affair, and it’s apparent that the 74 year-old singer feels strongly about making sure that the rest of her clan has moments in the spotlight. The trouble is that the rest of the family doesn’t have her talent, nor do they possess her inherent charm. Twin daughters Patsy and Peggy, AKA The Lynns (who charted two singles from a self-titled 1998 Reprise album), performed in a manner reminiscent of the Kinleys (blandly inoffensive, the aural equivalent of Cheerios), and were preceded by brother Ernest singing Toby Keith’s “I Ain’t As Good As I Once Was” like a drunk at karaoke night.

Worst of all was Lynn’s granddaughter, Tayla, a 20-something who screeched her way through feminist anthem “Rated X” whilst shaking her ass, twirling her hair, and otherwise coming off as an even less talented Kellie Pickler.

As much as it pains me to say it, I think Lynn’s touring days are drawing to an end. She appeared frail under her lavender rhinestone gown, requiring frequent breaks and sitting in a chair onstage while her children and bandmembers sang a song or two at a time. In addition to forgetting the lyrics of multiple songs, Lynn launched into “You’re Looking at Country” before being halted by a band member, apparently forgetting that she had just sung it not ten minutes before.

Despite these occasional moments of dottiness, however, Loretta can still sing with the best of them, and her frailness serves as a harsh reminder: In the past few years we’ve lost so many country music legends–go see your heroes while you still can.

  1. Dan Milliken
    December 8, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    LUCKY! I love the 9:30 Club, and obviously would pay some serious dollars to see Loretta. Great write-up.

  2. Rick
    December 8, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Thanks for the nice review Juli. It reminds me of when I saw Buck Owens perform at his Crystal Palace in Bakersfield back in September 2005. I figured he wasn’t getting any younger and I wanted to see a live performance while he was still around. Buck’s speech was quite slurred and he was confused at times, finally being talked off the stage by his much younger wife. Buck’s singing and guitar playing were still mostly intact though and it was a great honor to see him. If Miss Loretta comes my way while she is still able to perform, I’ll have to catch her act.

    PS – Thank goodness for a young artist like Amber Digby who seeks to carry on a facsimile of Loretta’s sound. Amber grew up around Loretta and it had a major impact on the sort of music Amber loves. Check out Amber as a child with Miss Loretta on Loretta’s bus around Christmas time: (Bottow row, middle photo)

  3. Juli
    December 9, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Rick, I LOVE Amber’s cover of “Deep As Your Pocket,” and that photo of her in ugly Christmas sweater on Loretta’s bus is absolutely adorable.

    Dan, the price actually wasn’t too bad ($55), especially for the opportunity to be 10 feet away from Miss Loretta all night. I didn’t get the opportunity to touch the hem of her garment or wash her feet with my tears, but it was still a great show.

  4. Jaime
    December 9, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Makes me want to see Loretta while I still can!

  5. Doug
    December 12, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I saw Loretta four years ago and it was mesmerizing. She’s a complete loose cannon on stage — you just never know what she’s going to do. She screws up a lot, gets confused and yells at her band, but I kind of like it because I get tired of the over-rehearsed tours that never vary from city to city. With Loretta, you know you’ve witnessed a singular performance that will never be repeated (and sometimes shouldn’t be).

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