Review: Tanya Tucker earned her flowers at Grand Casino Hinckley

Sunday 1st March 2020

HINCKLEY, Minn. -- "What's your name?" Tanya Tucker asked a fan who approached for an autograph between songs Saturday night at Grand Casino Hinckley. "Tina." Tucker then burst into an impression of Tina Turner dancing that was as much for her own amusement as for the sellout crowd's.

Most legacy music acts, especially those in country, tend to be on autopilot in concert, doing the same show, saying the same things, night after night.

Not this country stalwart. She was very present Saturday, very in the moment, very spontaneous. Totally Tanya.

She chided her daughter Presley, one of her backup singers, for looking at her cellphone during the show. She asked a roadie to check the size on her leopard-print Western shirt with all kinds of rhinestones (medium, he reported) because it wasn't feeling right.

She passed out countless shots of her own brand of tequila (not available in Minnesota) to fans and, of course, went bottoms up.

She even stopped the show for several minutes when one fan held up a striking customized pink jacket with a handcrafted image of Tanya. The singer autographed the coat, put it on and posed for photos for the fan. It was hard to tell who was more impressed -- the admirer or the star.

To be sure, Tucker delivered pat lines about her songs and made up facts such as how, as a teenager, she performed at a hockey rink in Hinckley. But it was all in the name of entertainment. And Tucker may do that better than any other female country star who was big in the 1970s. After all, Loretta Lynn doesn't tour, Dolly Parton lip syncs and Emmylou Harris doesn't really do much country anymore.

What Tucker brings is personality, attitude and unpredictability. She's got campy moves borrowed from Elvis and Ann-Margret. She knows how to play the aging sexpot, the grateful careerist and the comeback veteran, who just picked up her first Grammys nearly 50 years after she made her first record.

In 1¾ hours, Tucker delivered 25 songs, touching on her various eras from suggestive teen to stone-cold country singer to leather-clad rocker.

Backed by six musicians and two singers, Tucker came out rockin' on 1991's "Some Kind of Trouble." Mostly, though, she did the kind of country that you don't hear on the radio anymore, classic-sounding tunes often about the difficulties in life. There was a little Western swing, a tune about wanting to go to Texas after she dies and a tribute to her heroes, old beau Merle Haggard ("Farmer's Daughter") and Johnny Cash ("Ring of Fire," mashed up with Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire").

Sensing this crowd was mostly into classic Tanya, she saved selections from 2019's terrific album, "While I'm Livin,'" her first with original material in 17 years, for late in the set. The six new numbers written for her by Brandi Carlile and others sounded like vintage Tanya Tucker tunes, not like anything you'd hear on contemporary country radio.

Nothing connected more effectively than "Bring My Flowers Now," the Grammy winner for best country song. While Tucker's voice has grown raspier over the years, it now sounds like a comforting mix of wisdom and weariness. With that voice finding deep-seated conviction for the first time all night, she took stock of a well-lived but imperfect life.

"Bring my flowers now, while I'm livin,'" she crooned. "I won't need your love when I'm gone/Don't spend time, tears or money on my old breathless body/Well, if your heart is in them flowers, bring 'em on."

Bouquets arrived, both in the form of flowers and a tremendous ovation.

Then Tucker launched into "Amazing Grace," pausing and rolling her eyes after the line "that saved a wretch like me." A totally Tanya moment. She soon segued into "Delta Dawn," the 1973 smash about a faded flower that introduced her to the world at age 13. It was obvious Saturday that, at 61, Tanya Tucker is still blossoming.

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