Where the Wild Things Go: Tanya Tucker at World Café Live

The Tanya Tucker old school country music concert on Thursday night at World Café Live should be forever the norm, and never again the exceptional exception.

No sooner had the CMT’s Next Women of Country Tour been announced with Tanya Tucker, and a date at World Café Live for her Bring My Flowers Now Tour, the first thing that came to mind was ‘it’s about time.’

Philadelphia may have its fair share of arena and stadium country shows with the likes of Kenney Chesney, Keith Urban, Zach Brown and Carrie Underwood – and yes, recent Grammy-minted Kasey Musgraves has played The Met, The Fillmore, and even The Trocadero – but, in terms of the classicists of the country music genre, or artists with a more intimate heartland sound and following; not so much. Sometimes, the only opportunity we have for smaller country acts is when Willie Nelson brings them around as part of a package showcase – gigs that are, sadly, often canceled owing to Nelson’s bouts of poor health (the man is 86, and an icon, so he gets a pass. We’ll take Willie whenever we can get him.).

Philly has had country-themed events such as Barstool Mountain and showcases at Bob & Barbara’s but an old school country music concert-party the likes of which CMT, Tucker and Brandy Clark threw on Thursday night should be forever the norm, and never again the exceptional exception.

Then again, they don’t make them like Tanya Tucker anymore. They couldn’t – no one has the fortitude and the blessed individualism that Tucker – and even Clark – has at this point in time.

Forever known as country music’s wild child for her hell-raising ways and sassy manner, Tucker has now funneled the passion of partying into telling a story – the role of a singer, not just an entertainer – with a voice that was as strong and clear as it was rough and ragged in the very best way. She spent 10 years away from the recording booth, and made 2019’s While I’m Livin’ count, not only in terms of holy rolling and rousing musicality, and a mix of sensuous and spiritual song, but, prize-winning as well, as Tucker and her album’s producers Brandi Carlisle and Shooter Jennings, picked up two Grammy awards last month for their efforts.

Before joking about cheesesteaks, visiting Independence Hall, and her own new brand of tequila (Cosa Salvaje) that she sipped and doled out to the audience, Tucker took to earlier material such as “Ridin’ Out the Heartache” and David Allen Coe’s “Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)” with genuine bristle and gristle. To go with her usual swagger and posing (moves like the lid of her hat down over her face while hooking her thumb in her belt) “The Jamestown Ferry,” “What’s Your Mama’s Name,” Blood Red and Goin’ Down,” and “Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand Another You,” were as soulfully sauntering, and deeply emotive, as they were aesthetically stirring. If you hadn’t heard these songs in a moment, their brand of brooding epiphany hit you in the face like a boxing glove with tar on it. Same for Tucker’s covers of “Texas (When I Die)” and Brandi’s own “That Wasn’t Me.” As for “Love Me Like You Used To,” it was forceful, funky, and yes, sexy – not a word a reviewer gets to use too often at present.

And Tucker’s biggest hit, “Delta Dawn” was triumphant, a true show of a woman – an artist – at the height of her power, now, and in command of an image that once was.

Sitting down (a rarity for the constantly in motion Tucker) and laughing about being able to do so in skin-tight leather pants, Tucker performed the spare, slow “Bring My Flowers Now,” in a husky prayerful fashion, as if calling on God and man to tend to her before her final hour beckons. “Don’t spend time, tears or money on my old breathless body… We all think we have the time, until we don’t.”

Remember that the next time you think about missing Tanya Tucker in concert.

Images: Danny Clinch.

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