Wynonna Judd + Friends Deliver a Night No One Expected During ‘Love Is Alive’ Show [Review]
Wynonna Judd and friends gave fans at Middle Tennessee State University's Murphy Center the show they wanted in Nashville on Thursday night (Nov. 3), even if it wasn't quite the show they were expecting.
The Judds: Love Is Alive — the Final Concert was billed as a night to recreate the duo's first final show from December of 1991. In actuality, it aligned more with the tour Wynonna Judd and special guests gave nightly this fall, including six nights ago in Nashville. That 24-song set list is very strong, and even with a few nips and tucks, it will make for good television when CMT airs the new show in March.
Starting with Martina McBride on "Girls Night Out," Wynonna Judd relied on an impressive bullpen of great country women (plus Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet from Little Big Town). Ashley McBryde soared on "Rockin' With the Rhythm of the Rain" and later on "Rock Bottom," a Wynonna solo release from 1994.
Little Big Town proved their versatility singing "Love Is Alive" and "Turn It Loose" with the Country Music Hall of Famer. It truly is amazing how effortlessly the foursome can go from backing vocalists to stars and back in less than one-half of a chorus. Kelsea Ballerini — clad in a deep blue suit — embraced the soulful "Born to Be Blue" like it was her theme song, not a lyric dropped three years before she was born.
Brandi Carlile did the most work of any of Wynonna's special guests. Not only did she bounce around the headliner during "Let Me Tell You About Love," she took "Have Mercy" solo between stints as one of Judd's backing vocalists. On stage, she's every bit the star the format's top contemporary artists are today. We're lucky to have her, if only in small doses.
CMT's cameras gobbled up the celebration with minimal interruption, which should make for quality, genuine television next spring. There weren't many tears. In fact, the songs clipped along rapidly, leaving little time for the singer to reflect on her late mother.
It's just not clear why the night was marketed as something it didn't end up becoming. An out-of-order setlist from the 1991 show (found on Setlist.com) and contemporary guests are understandable, but one would figure songs released from 1992 until now would be off limits. The same fans would have appreciated the 31-year nostalgia all the same without thinking they would hear "Maybe Your Baby's Got the Blues."
A special note should be made about the potential for the Murphy Center to host more concerts. The basketball arena provided a surprisingly pleasant atmosphere, with clean sight lights and sound equal to larger arenas. Artists looking to play arenas that can't quite sell out major sports venues may want to consider it in the future.