"Concert" is putting this gathering much too lightly. "Event" may be more like it.
"I just declare that this is a PARTY tonight!" Naomi Judd announced midway through her and daughter Wynonna's segment of their "farewell tour" show.Not that the crowd needed any kind of official declaration. There was a festive "Let's party!" feeling all night long.
It was a triple-feature "Nashville night" at the Huntsman Center, filled with an estimated 14,000 country-western fans, all hootin' and hollerin' and anxious to bid ailing Naomi goodbye.
This was really three concerts in one, with brief intermissions between segments to allow for setting up the bands' instruments.
- SINCE THE JUDDS were the closing act (and it was their official "Love Can Build a Bridge Farewell Tour"), let's look at this concert in reverse order and start with them.
While both Brooks and Pirates concentrate on hard-driving "country rock," mama Naomi and daughter Wynonna hail back to good old-fashioned, from-the-heart country.
After an opening set that included such tunes as "Give A Little Love," "Mama He's Crazy" and a revved-up former Presley hit, "Don't Be Cruel," Naomi, with her cover-girl looks, sized up the audience and said: "Are you guys always like this? I guess you people must like country music as much as I do!"
The crowd roared its approval of her comment that country is a style of "music that sticks to your soul," then went on to demonstrate why with "River of Time" and the poignant "Guardian Angels."
All told, the Judds sang 14 songs during their hour and 15-minute segment of the evening's program. Highlights included "Have Mercy (On Me)," "One Hundred And Two" and "Change of Heart."
Two songs, "Why Not Me?" and "Grandpa (Tell Me About the Good Old Days)," were videotaped for inclusion June 1 and 2 in the annual Children's Miracle Network fund-raiser."
"Don't y'all want to go home?" Wynonna asked when she and her mother returned to the stage for an encore. The reply was an ear-splitting "No!"
But after "Born To Be Blue" and the tour's namesake "Love Can Build A Bridge," it was 11:05 p.m. and, while the audience could've stayed all night long, the Judds were probably worn out.
While Naomi is quitting the concert circuit due to chronic hepatitis, she looked beautiful and relaxed on Saturday night. Wynonna has the stronger voice of the two, but it's Naomi who radiates the warmth.
A group of fans in front of the stage unfurled a big handmade sign that said "WE'LL MISS YOU, NAOMI." Some 14,000 fans undoubtedly agree.
- GARTH BROOKS collected six awards last month at the Academy of Country Music Awards show - and he gave the Huntsman Center crowd a winning performance, too. The clean-cut Oklahoma boy boosted the arena's noise level to a fever-pitch excitement with such hits as "Friends in Low Places," "Not Counting on You," "The Dance" and the title song from his controversial video, "The Thunder Rolls."
For an encore, he sang a Billy Joel piece, "I May Be Crazy" - while climbing up a rope ladder.
Two of Brooks' songs in the concert, "Two Of A Kind, Workin' On A Full House" and "Unanswered Prayer" were also taped for the Children's Miracle Network show.
- PIRATES OF THE MISSISSIPPI was, technically, the evening's warm-up act. But it's really more of a "let's-turn-up-the-heat-to-sizzling-hot" act.
During their 26-minute set, these not-so-motley Pirates raced through "Talkin' 'bout Love," "Down and Out in Birmingham," the moving "Feed Jake" and "Red-Necked Rock 'n' Roll," ably proving why they were just honored as the ACM's best new group of the year.
Next time they're back, don't be too surprised if they're headlining.