COHOES — Despite a 19-hour trek to Cohoes Music Hall for the opening night of her “Herstory & Hits Tour,” Wynonna Judd was ready to celebrate on Wednesday.
Her adoring fans were right there with her, dancing in the balcony of the historic theater and singing along to heartbreak ballads and rousing hits from Wynonna’s storied 38-year musical career.
The iconic country music singer (who as a solo performer drops the Judd from her name) came onstage dressed in a black fringe sweater, with sparkles on her sleeves. Her signature red hair blazed around her shoulders. Her spirit was exuberant as she opened with “Heaven Help My Heart,” a song originally recorded by Australian songwriter Tina Arena, and she embodied the spirit of Elvis on a rocking version of “Burning Love.”
Wynonna was backed by her four-piece band The Big Noise, led by her husband, Cactus Moser, on drums. The Big Noise opened the show with several seamlessly grooving and freeform tunes — more jam than traditional country — from an upcoming new album, including “Sarasota” and “Big Sky.”
They also paid homage to their musical forebears, the Allman Brothers, with a version of “One Way Out.”
Everything about the night seemed charmed — from the unseasonably warm weather to the spirited bars, restaurants and vintage shops that now line the increasingly gentrifying Remsen Street. Inside the ornate and intimate theater, where staff are uncommonly friendly and helpful, the mood was festive.
“This room is so magical,” Moser said during the headlining set. “You are so blessed to have it in your town.”
“Someday we should come back here and tape some kind of special,” Wynonna added.
Just two days before the Cohoes show, Wynonna and her 76-year-old mother, Naomi — who make up country music’s legendary mother-daughter duo, the Judds — appeared onstage together at the CMT Awards show in Nashville for their first televised appearance in 20 years to perform their 1990 hit “Love Will Build a Bridge” accompanied by a choir of gospel singers.
The pair, who have been estranged at times since achieving stardom in 1984 with their hit, “Mama He’s Crazy,” are casting aside any bad blood to embark on the Judds’ The Final Tour 10-date arena tour in September. The trailblazing duo is slated for a long-overdue induction into Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame in May.
“It hasn’t been an easy road, but it’s been worth it,” Wynonna said onstage before playing “Cry Myself to Sleep,” a tear-jerker from the first Judds album, recorded in 1983 when Wynonna was just 18 years old. The fiery singer has always been known in her family for her rebellious spirit and for not wanting to conform, she said.
“I’ve been a dreamer all my life,” she said onstage. “I got on the bus at 18, and I never got off. I tell people wherever I go, don’t you ever give up on your dreams.”
In one of the highlights of the show, Wynonna pulled out her phone and recorded the crowd singing “Happy birthday” to her friend and major influence, country music legend Loretta Lynn, who turned 90 the following day.
She followed that interlude with a rendition of the great seminal Judds hit “Mama He’s Crazy,” brought a young boy named Clayton from the audience on stage to take a photograph, and closed out the feel-good, high energy show with a rousing sing-along of “No One Else on Earth” and an encore of “Tell Me Why.”