"There's only one true Queen of country music and you saw her tonight." No truer words could have been spoken Saturday night (June 9) at the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, Pa., where country music trailblazer Loretta Lynn held court in one of her signature blue gowns, surrounded by a canon of songs that still astound with their rhythmic directness and lyrical punch.
Celebrating 50 years since she burst on the scene as country's most unapologetic female voice, Lynn powered though a minor illness to put on a clinic for the adoring crowd, kicking the night off with "They Don't Make em Like Daddy," "You're Looking at Country," "When the Tingle Becomes a Chill" and "I Wanna Be Free" before even taking a breath.
Banter has always been a key element to a Loretta Lynn show, and this was no different, though the topics tend to vary year-to-year. She touched on the election ("you've got these guys saying 'vote for me! vote for me!") and the economy, but she also got into a playful row with various members of her 9-piece band, ribbing when they admitted not knowing a fan-requested song, "You know, maybe I should get you some of my records and you can listen to em!"
She also couldn't resist touching on the recent controversy over her age (according to documents obtained by the Associated Press, the singer is three years older than she has previously stated).
"I don't care how old I am, if I'm 90, I still look good don't I?" she asked to the roar of a crowd. "That's one thing that never did bother me, you know. That things age. But last year I was feeling so guilty because I was feeling so good."
That bit of defiance on the part of Lynn synched well with her set, which included her fist-raising anthems from 1966, "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)" and "Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind)," as well as her No. 1 hit from 1968 about a wandering husband, the aptly titled "Fist City."
Throughout the 90-minute show, Lynn made a point to apologize repeatedly about her voice, which did have its limits, but the adoring crowd was having none of it. "I bet you'll be calling radio shows to say it was the worst show you've ever seen," she said during one of her more self-effacing moments. "NO!" the audience roared. That convinced her, and we didn't hear any more apologies from the legend after that.
Other highlights of the night included rousing versions of "Blue Kentucky Girl," "Honky Tonk Girl" and the haunting, as-relevant-as-ever "Dear Uncle Sam," about the Vietnam War, which has taken on new meaning in the wake of two recent wars.
More than anything, a Loretta Lynn show is a family affair. Her daughters Patsy and Peggy Lynne warmed up the crowd with a brief opening set and served as backup singers throughout the evening. Lynn also brought her 12-year-old granddaughter, Emmy Rose, to the stage to perform a pair of songs on solo guitar -- and she nearly stole the night with her Taylor Swift-esque vocal. After running through an impressive version of The Band Perry's "If I Die Young," the young singer performed an original song of hers, titled "A Whole Lot More."
Lynn wrapped up the concert with the patriotic-themed "God Bless America, Again," "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven" and "Where No One Stands Alone," before launching into her most famous song -- the autobiographical tour de force, "Coal Miner's Daughter."
After the show, fans clutching vinyl, t-shirts and camera phones gathered outside the Sands Events Center near her tour bus, with its silhouette logo of a coal worker on the side, waiting to salute their Queen.