The Judds' 11-city tour, announced prior to Naomi's death in April, now serves as a tribute to the late country icon's life and legacy. Ahead of the first show at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich. on Friday, Wynonna reflected on returning to the stage for the first time without her longtime Judds collaborator and beloved mother.
Rehearsals, she said, has not been easy amidst the grief. "It's devastatingly beautiful to go back to the past and relive some of these memories," Wynonna told Associated Press. "Yesterday I was in rehearsal and there's a part in the show where they sync up Mom singing with me. And I turned around and I just lost it."
Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images Wynonna and Naomi Judd
Larry Strickland, Naomi's husband of 33 years, said he hopes fans feel uplifted hearing his late wife's music performed on stage again, but admitted it would be difficult for him to see images of her on the big screen and hear her voice. "I'm having trouble now just seeing pictures of her," Strickland told AP. "I don't know how much I can handle."
For Naomi, being on stage "was her world," Strickland said. "She loved being on the stage and singing. She loved people."
The tour, set to conclude on Oct. 29 at the Judds' home state of Kentucky at Rupp Arena in Lexington, will also feature special guests Brandi Carlile, Ashley McBryde, Little Big Town, Kelsea Ballerini, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, and tour opener Martina McBride. Other stops include Forth Worth; Toledo, Ohio; Green Bay, Wis.; and Nashville.
Carlile joined Wynonna on the emotional night one in Michigan, with the latter sharing a clip from the show on Instagram over the weekend.
Naomi, who was vocal about her struggles with depression, died by suicide on April 30 at the age of 76. In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning last month, Wynonna recalled her final moments with her mother.
"I said goodbye to her in the hospital, and I closed her eyes, and I kissed her forehead and that was that," Wynonna said. "And the next thing I know, I'm sitting here on the front porch, on the side porch… you know, and I'm just tryin' to figure out what's next."