Concert Review: Loretta Lynn @ 9:30 Club
WASHINGTON — 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.
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