Almost two hours, four standing ovations and a host of songs after the September 23 show started, an all-ages crowd of fans -- many clutching giant posters and 8 x10 glossies of the 65th member of the Grand Ole Opry -- stood in the drippingly humid night air, just beyond the stage door near Patty's white tour bus, hoping to at least catch a glimpse of the star.
Before she moved outside to talk with those fans and sign autographs, the Grammy Award-winning Patty was chatting with clearly starstruck fans who were invited to a backstage meet-and-greet.
"I've never done anything like this before," said Lorri Drury of Oakton, Va., who attended the concert and meet-and-greet with her husband, Mark. "I just don't see what she wouldn't sell out [a major amphitheater]. She was ... wow."
Added her husband Mark enthusiastically: "The range of her voice. Did you hear that range?"
In a show of hands that Patty requested during the concert, it seemed about 25% of the fans at the club were newer fans, some of whom were likely introduced to Patty's music -- and, yes, that still-incredible range -- through friends.
"It's kind of odd when you think of Loretta Lynn, when she was first traveling and recording country music," Patty tells The Boot of her distant cousin who would always sign autographs and chat with fans after shows and appearances. "It was all built through word of mouth. If you pleased the fans, they would pass it around to their friends and family. Now it's like we are going back to people wanting that touch. The internet is digital, but [popularity is still built] through word of mouth."
As the old saying goes, Patty's concert definitely gave this crowd something to talk about. Moving through an impressive array of songs starting with 'The Night's Too Long,' Patty delivered such favorites as 'Nothing But the Wheel,' 'On Down the Line' -- which received huge cheers for the singer's long-held notes -- and 'You Don't Seem to Miss Me,' which she famously sang in 1997 with George Jones.
Backing Patty up was a six-piece band of what sounded like some of the best players and singers in Nashville including steel guitar player extraordinaire Pete Finney, who has also recorded with Patty. Although Patty graciously moved out of the spotlight on several occasions so as to showcase the players, often leading the audience in applause, it was Patty's voice that time and again brought the audience to their feet.
"I must have family here tonight," Patty laughingly told the crowd at one point. "You know, I started to perform when I was 12 ... I don't talk too much. I let the music do the talking."
With nods to her coal miner's daughter roots, Patty treated the crowd to the original, coal-inspired lyrics of 'Busted,' from her 'Mountain Soul II,' and a song she sings in remembrance of her father and other miners who died of black lung disease, 'You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive.'
Patty's a master, though, and has honed her set carefully to ensure that the more poignant songs were followed by get-the-party-restarted tunes including 'I'm That Kind of Girl,' which had most of the filled-to-capacity crowd dancing.
If there were flaws in the evening's performance, few, if any, in the crowd could tell you what they were, although Patty -- a perfectionist about her work -- feels there are likely things she could improve upon, even at this stage in her career.
"When I listen to my own records, I always think, "Oh, I could have sung that so much better. But you have to finish something and turn it in. If I didn't have folks who say, 'Come on, we need the record now,' I probably would never finish one. When I'm performing, though, I think, 'OK, there is somebody out there who is hearing me sing this song for the first time. I want to touch them, move them and impress them enough so when they walk away, they'll remember it ... I may not be able to re-record a song but I can do a better job each time I sing it."
Patty Loveless' next concert dates are scheduled for September 24 in Annapolis, Md., and Sept. 25 in Staunton, Va. For a complete list of dates and cities, check here.