I was quite surprised to find that the "Dallas Events Center" is in all actuality a convention area ballroom. It’s not a real theater or showroom, but the same ballroom where the company I work for has had our Christmas party and all-employee meetings! I really feel Las Vegas could have done better by Loretta (no offense to the Texas Station, of course!). My friend Kevin runs sound for the Texas and he came out to welcome my sister and me to the show and let us know that he had the pleasure of meeting Loretta backstage and she was as sweet as could be but was suffering from an upset stomach. Uh oh. The show started up and again to our surprise the first person to come out and sing was Loretta’s son, Ernest Ray Lynn. The whole evening was a family affair because after Ernest Ray sang a few songs, Loretta’s daughter Patsy Lynn came out and sang as well. She was named after Loretta’s dear friend Patsy Cline and she honored her namesake by singing Walking After Midnight. Finally Patsy introduced the reason why we were all there, Miss Loretta Lynn. Dressed in a gigantic turquoise beaded gown, she was as cute as a button and all smiles despite not feeling well. She was really honest about “feeling poorly” and asked us if we minded if she sat down. We of course chorused no and she quickly took a seat in a chair so that her voluminous skirts puffed out all around her. The woman is 74 years old and our show was the last night on a three week tour so it was easy to forgive her for being a little tired and under the weather. Her voice was unaffected as were her spirits.
She sang hit after hit: Hey Loretta, You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man), Honky Tonk Girl, Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind), Fist City (my favorite!!), Coal Miner’s Daughter, When the Tingle Becomes a Chill and others. In a stroke of genius she turned One’s On the Way (written by the fabulous Shel Silverstein!) and The Pill into a medley. So first she’s singing, "I'm glad that Raquel Welch just signed a million dollar pact, and Debbie's out in Vegas workin' up a brand new act, while the TV's showin' Newlyweds a real fun game to play, but here in Topeka the screen door's a bangin', the coffee's boilin' over and the wash needs a hangin', one wants a cookie and one wants a changin' and one's on the way" and then she went straight into "All these years I've stayed at home, while you had all your fun and every year that’s gone by, another baby’s come. There's a gonna be some changes made right here on nursery hill, you've set this chicken your last time 'Cause now I've got the pill! This old maternity dress I've got, is goin' in the garbage. The clothes I'm wearin' from now on won't take up so much yardage, miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills, yeah I'm makin' up for all those years since I've got the pill." It was played so seamlessly by the band that I didn't even notice until she had sang a few lines from The Pill that that was what she had done! It was so perfect and was probably my favorite part of the night!
I think people forget that for such a backwoods country girl Loretta really wrote some great feminist anthems! She was pretty radical for her day – especially in the conservative country music world. She's always been very sassy and straightforward about how she feels as a woman, as a wife of a husband that cheats, and as a mother. You can't help but love her for it.
At one point during the show she told us about how she started out, how she pestered DJs around Nashville to play her record. Then she said that the first DJ to put her record on the air was at the show tonight and she made him stand up and give a little bow. He was a tiny old man, wearing a bolo tie and fancy sport coat. The whole audience roared for him and Loretta beamed at him from the stage. She told lots of funny stories between songs about her family and recording career in that adorable, distinct, Kentucky twang she has. She had great rapport with her band too. They were all men including the backup singers and they were very obviously taking care of her onstage. When they could see her go through a spell where she felt a little worse, they would take over and sing a song on their own, or suggest a duet, so she could sing less.
Towards the end of her set she went all patriotic and religious on us and sang her anti-war ballad Dear Uncle Sam and some of her gospel songs which is where the night got a little weird for me. I’m not used to the audience at a country show. They got very vocal with their political and religious views in response to her stance. There was a lot of supportive cat calling to put prayer back in the schools and the Ten Commandments back on the court house lawns! WTF?? The other weird thing about the audience at such a small country show? They would walk right up to the stage and hand her flowers and gifts and take pictures of her! It was very distracting but my sister says it’s common with the country crowd.
There was a good number of young people in the crowd and I think that stems directly from when Jack White of The White Stripes produced Loretta’s 2004 album Van Lear Rose which won several Grammys. It is a spectacular album with many wonderfully personal songs encompassing her entire life: stories about her mother, her children, and the death of her husband. I was very disappointed that she didn’t perform any of the songs from that album and I imagine a lot of young people in the audience were disappointed too. Her set was very short due to her illness, but I wonder if she had played longer if she would have sang any of them? Maybe they are too personal for her to perform? In the end, it was lovely getting to see Loretta Lynn live despite the small disappointments of the overall experience. I hope she comes back through this way before she stops performing altogether.
I didn’t take any pictures during the show. I couldn’t bring myself to be like the others and just walk right up to the stage and snap a shot! It seemed rude to me! But I wanted to share some Loretta here, so I found some great youtube clips. I hope you will watch them!
Here she performs my favorite Fist City (look at that hair!):
And here she is with Jack White doing their duet Portland, Oregon: