The first thing that struck me about going to see Loretta Lynn was that everyone seemed to think it was a bad idea. I'd tell my friends that I was going, and I'd inevitably get a reaction that said, in so many words, "ew, why?" This struck me as odd. I get liking her music, because hey, not everyone is going to like everything. But the extent of the negativity caught me off guard. I guess I just figured that she sort of had that elder statesman, living legend status, where even if you weren't a fan, you had to respect her just for doing this for so long.
Maybe an endorsement from Jack White counts for less than I thought. Maybe it's a negative? Maybe he can talk her into doing a song with the Insane Clown Posse. Holy crap, do I ever want this to happen now.
But that's for another day. Today (by which I mean a few weeks ago), I caught the C-Train to the Jubilee Auditorium, making me our nation's foremost expert on getting to Calgary concert venues by train. I wear this title with pride and humility.
The auditorium itself was nice enough. I don't really have anything to say about it. It's your standard venue for shows where everyone is expected to sit down. Regina's is about as nice, but smaller. The Winspear Centre in Edmonton, where I saw Ben Folds, was decidedly prettier.
Our opener was Brett Kissel. The name sounded familiar but I hadn't heard any of his songs and didn't know anything about him. He was very excited to have signed a new Nashville record deal, and he sounds like he'd fit right in on modern country radio - and now you know if his style of music is of interest to you. He also played a few country classics, which seemed like a good idea, given the audience. And hey, everyone loves The Gambler. But you know what I don't love? Okie From Muskogie. "We like livin' right and bein' free," so here's a bunch of stuff you aren't free to do, you goddamn dirty hippie. Despite playing that song, Kissel seemed like a likeable enough guy, so I hope he doesn't sleep with Juliette Barnes. That girl is BAD NEWS.
(Ten years from now, I will re-read this and have absolutely no idea what that meant. Really, I'm a little sad that it makes sense to me now.)
I was thinking more about my friends' reactions to Loretta Lynn, so in between sets, I polled Facebook. Loretta Lynn concert, thumbs up or thumbs down? The reaction was strongly and unanimously positive. Maybe I wasn't clear about what I was asking, or maybe the people who'd be opposed to going to Loretta Lynn weren't about to speak up given the strong wave of pro-Lynn support at the start. Maybe people just like to Like things on Facebook? At any rate, the poll was ultimately a dubious idea, since it meant my phone buzzed in my pocket all through the rest of the show. However, this was not nearly the most distracting part of the evening - as previously observed at the Leonard Cohen show, the nation's elderly REALLY need smartphone etiquette lessons. There's a business opportunity here; I'm thinking a line of instructional faxes. Old people LOVE faxes.
After the intermission, Lynn's twin daughters came out to hawk merchandise. To be honest, this whole bit was pretty tacky. I expect a certain amount of shilling, but ideally, it should be related directly to the music. And if there's something extra in it for me, so much the better; Kissel mentioned that his new CD was available, but he also offered to meet people, take pictures, and sign the CD (he even offered to sign Garth Brooks' and George Strait's names instead of his own, in case we'd prefer that). So I guess I draw the line somewhere in between "my new CD is available at the merch table" and "mom's new box set is available at the merch table, and so is this limited edition poster, and look at these t-shirts and hoodies, we're selling these too." I get that nobody buys music anymore and you've got to make your money where you can, but still.
After the sales pitch, we got two songs by Lynn's band (one of whom, I'm certain, is Michael "P.S." Hayes) before Lynn finally took the stage.
If the most common question I got before the show was "why are you going," the most common question after the show was "so... was she still... good?" It's a fair question. Lynn is now 81, which puts her close to my grandpa's age. She's a touring musician, and he doesn't travel much further than the grocery store.
I guess the best answer to that question is that I had limited my expectations, and they were met. Lynn took the stage, still in her trademark flowing gown, but only stood for two songs. She spent the rest of the show seated, and over the course of the evening, made a few references to the health issues that come with age. She mentioned her glaucoma, saying "if you ain't never had a shot in the eye, you ain't never had a shot," and the entire audience shuddered as one. There were also a few points where would chat with members of her band but seemed to have a bit of trouble following the conversation.
But could she still sing? You know, she really could. Granted, I'm sure can do those songs in her sleep by now, and she didn't exactly try to challenge her voice too much, but everything she did, she did well. I enjoyed one particular bit of showmanship; she'd ask the crowd for requests, everyone would yell out titles, and she'd pick a song and play it. In all that hollering, did she actually hear someone specifically requesting Fist City? I am certain she did not, but whatever. It was a bit of theatre that made people happy, and besides, I like that one.
She fit in most of the must-haves, including You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man, The Pill, Don't Come Home A' Drinkin' (With Lovin' on Your Mind), One's on the Way, and a few gospel songs. There was nothing from the Van Lear Rose album, but I suspect that those weren't the songs most people were there to hear.
Instead of taking a break before an encore, Lynn remained seated on stage while her band and her daughters did a few songs, before Lynn closed with - of course - Coal Miner's Daughter. It was quite a short set - only an hour from start to finish. Given the demographics of the audience, I don't imagine people would have wanted to stay out much later anyway. Sometimes it's fun to go to a show where I don't feel like the creepy old man hiding out in the corner.
That's it for this year's Calgary adventures. I have vacation days that I have to use up by the end of April next year, so I may as well time it to include the kickoff of Mounties' Canadian tour ("March 26, 2014," he said, mostly so he'd have a convenient place to find it later).
I had the chance to see them in Philly but declined because Axl is an ass and will remain one until he proves otherwise. Waiting until 11PM to cancel the Philly show was just wrong. But so was not being in Vancouver for opening night.