The country music Legends Tour had to take on the Utah Jazz Friday night. And Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and George Jones did pretty well.
No, the crowd wasn't capacity. But it was respectable.And, pros they are, the country threesome worked hard.
For many of us, George Jones was the best reason for showing up. He hadn't been in Utah since the flood (Noah's, not State Street's). And he didn't disappoint.
If anyone else in the business tried to sing with that growl/howl whine that George Jones uses, they'd be laughed and hissed off the stage. But for Jones, all the slippery notes are just badges of his guts and honesty.
Jones works. At one point he had to take a few minutes to catch his breath; the altitude was doing him in. Like James Brown, the soul master who constantly has his brow mopped by backup singers and needs physical support to make it through a show, Jones wears himself out. He just does it in his own way.
He sang the old stuff and sang it straight - no medleys or gimmickry. "I'm Not Ready Yet," "The Race is On," "Two Dollar Pistol," "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes." He brought the show home with his best, "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
The band, a classic five-piece hard-country group, ground a little sawdust out of the fiddle and bent a few strings before it was over.
Loretta Lynn followed. The First Lady of Country Music made a million on her charm. And the charm was all there. Whether booing the audience back good-naturedly when they booed George Bush, or cracking jokes about her bodyguards' blushing, Lynn was the energetic, spontaneous soul listeners came for.
She reprised her hits and did a Patsy Cline tribute that will be remembered locally for some time.
In a little surprise, Jeanne Pruitt, who's been traveling with the entourage, came on stage for a duet with Lynn on "Satin Sheets." Ironically, Pruitt, in her down-home attire, looked more like one imagines Loretta Lynn, and Lynn - in spangles, white boots and tights, - looked a little like a Coal Miner's daughter trying to be Tanya Tucker.
It's a tough choice. Going with the flow has washed up more than a few country greats over the years.
Conway Twitty finished the night in his famous stagey style. After handsomely knocking off renditions of "Tight-Fittin' Jeans," "Lay You Down," "Darlin' " and several other No. 1hits, he sang Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me?"
If the man decided to go gospel he could become the greatest white gospel singer of his time.
He won't. There's no money there and Conway may have the fun, but he doesn't seem to have the faith.
"That's My Job" got the biggest reaction. Cynical hard-country enthusiasts feel that song is too good for him.
It is a darn good song.
At the end Loretta Lynn came back so she and Conway could offer a couple of duets and horse around with the crowd.
Twitty's funny, a trait that gets lost in his sultry, oversexed image.
Not a bad night.
And regardless of what was happening over at the Salt Palace, at the Huntsman Center, fans got a winner.