The Judds are still saying goodbye. On Tuesday night (Oct. 18), they graced a small stage in the Franklin Theatre, a downtown movie theatre in Franklin, Tenn., to sing for longtime fans, friends and neighbors. Proceeds benefited the newly renovated movie house on Main Street in the Mayberry-like town they’ve called home for 30-plus years.
With only about 300 seats in the venue, the dynamic duo spent almost as much time joking around and looking for familiar faces as they did singing the classics that made them famous. Over the course of the night, they gave shout-outs to their therapist (who they said was taking notes), Naomi’s gynecologist and Wynonna’s fifth-grade math teacher.
Although they can claim Ashland, Ky., as their stomping grounds, the Judds absolutely have roots in Franklin, too. Wynonna used to see movies at this same theatre as a youngster and Naomi worked as a nurse at a nearby hospital while trying to get a music career off the ground.
As she often does, Wynonna asked the crowd how many people had never seen them perform before. About a fourth of the hands went up. Naomi Judd followed that with similar remark: “Raise your hand if you ever dated one of us.” The audience chuckled nervously, not sure where this was going. Luckily, it didn’t veer off the rails and the night turned into a low-key and fun event with a lot of music and laughter.
The duo lightheartedly made their way through “Girls Night Out” and “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain,” missing a few lines due to giggling and eye-rolling. It didn’t need to be said, yet Naomi told the audience, “This is going to be a very interesting evening.”
This being a Judds show, there was the hard-won wisdom — quotes like “You take fear and add expectations, it can turn into faith.” Of course, there was hijinx. Naomi started dancing and announced, “I just need me a pole!” To that, Wynonna replied, “Mom, your granddaughter is in the audience!” And certainly, tears were shed by the singers and the audience on enduring fan favorites like the poignant “River of Time.”
The mother-daughter duo’s goofiness can be probably chalked up to nerves because they each insisted that playing a hometown show is much harder than any other gig. But when they calmed down enough to deliver gems like “Love Is Alive,” “Cry Myself to Sleep,” “Give a Little Love” and “Young Love,” the old magic was still there. You just had to listen.
About a third of the way into the set, Naomi stepped away as Wynonna delivered solo hits like “She Is His Only Need,” her debut single as a solo artist, which hit No. 1 in 1992. She told the audience that the song saved her life, since it arrived at a moment of enormous transition.
When she belted out “No One Else on Earth,” she turned to the audience at the chorus for some sing-along participation, but this being a Nashville-area crowd — Franklin is about a half-hour south — the microphone was met with crickets. She looked shocked.
“I didn’t spend three hours getting ready for that!” she insisted. On a second run-through, the audience sang back to her in perfect pitch, another typical experience in Music City.
She closed her solo set with “Only Love,” “Burning Love” and a stellar rendition of “I Want to Know What Love Is,” with her impressive touring band rolling with the flow.
Wearing a different dress that sparkled in purple, green and burgundy, Naomi returned to the stage for “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Mama He’s Crazy” and “Why Not Me.” There were more quips, like when Wynonna sang, “Mama, you always said …” and Naomi jumped in with “Always sign a pre-nup!” And yes, more enlightenment. (Wy: “It’s a miracle we made it.”) And more classics: “Grandpa (Tell Me ’Bout the Good Old Days)” and “Love Can Build a Bridge” closed the show.
Will there be much more from the Judds? Hard to say. Wynonna stated there won’t be a second season of their reality show on OWN and their tour website only mentions one more performance — a casino date in Louisiana on Oct. 29.
Unless they have a change of heart, that could be the end of the Judds. But over the years, we’ve learned two things from this duo. First off, “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother,” as Wy always says. And second, you never know what they’ll say or do next.