If there’s one thing you can predict about Tanya Tucker, it’s that she’s unpredictable. And that’s why she’s so entertaining in concert, as evidenced by her Thursday night (Feb. 20) show — part of the CMT Next Women of Country Tour — across the street from Graceland in Memphis.
With scant personality in the Graceland Live event space, Tucker brought plenty of her own to make it up for it. She shimmied in a shining silver fringe top, riffed with the crowd, and at one point dropped to the floor to pose as if she was Elvis himself.
Rather than strolling through her catalog chronologically, she skipped around with “Some Kind of Trouble,” “Ridin’ Out the Heartache,” “What’s Your Mama’s Name Child,” and “Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand Another You,” pausing to pay respects to songwriter Billy Ray Reynolds for that latter hit.
She noted that earlier in the day she took a VIP tour of Graceland with her band and crew, many of whom she lamented were not even born when Presley died in 1977. (One such example: her 30-year-old daughter Presley Tucker, who sings in the band.)
Following pleasant renderings of two vintage hits — “Strong Enough to Bend” and “Love Me Like You Used To” — and a generous sampling from her line of tequila, she put her own spin on the King’s enduring classic, “In the Ghetto,” remarking at the end, “We miss you, Elvis.”
With dozens of hits to draw from, Tucker could compose a set packed with medleys and generic introductions but instead she prefers to go off script, as if she’s casually catching up with friends. Reflecting on her early career, she commented that she wished there had been something back then like the CMT Next Women of Country Tour (which is presenting her next stretch of tour dates).
A rising class of female artists of country music are scheduled to open throughout Tucker’s tour. In this case, Grammy-nominated artist Brandy Clark warmed up the room with witty, original songs about jail time and weed, a good match for her agreeable stage presence. She will release a new album, Your Life Is a Record, on March 6.
In addition Tucker emphasized that she never dreamed that she’d find this level of success with While I’m Livin’ — her 2019 album that collected two Grammys last month — and she reminded the crowd that you’re never too old to pursue your dreams.
For all of the attention given to Tucker’s outrageous personality, the real defining trait for deep-rooted country music fans may be her ability to put her stamp on any song, even those written decades apart.
With the evening winding down, Tucker wrapped up the show with “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane,” and a few lines of “Amazing Grace” that led into her signature song, “Delta Dawn.” She’ll continue on the CMT Next Women of Country Tour through June.
All photos courtesy of Derrek Kupish / dkupish productions