Lubbock concluded its year-long birthday celebration with grace and
style in the form of a mesmerizing three-hour concert Saturday at the
United Spirit Arena, emceed in often humorous fashion by Lubbock
Centennial host Mac Davis.
Music arranger, composer and guest conductor David
Kneupper no doubt spoke for many when he said, "You won't find a better
produced show than this even in the largest cities. People just don't
expect to discover this sort of quality in a city the size of Lubbock."
a surreal effect, however, was the number of well respected,
professional entertainers who were humbled by their fellow headliners
in the featured ensemble.
Jennifer Smith, a veteran of 11
Broadway shows, was the first to mention being nervous about
re-entering the spotlight in her hometown - for the first time since a
John Gillas-directed production of "Finian's Rainbow" at the Lubbock
Memorial Civic Center Theatre more than 30 years ago.
Cook, an internationally respected opera star, wowed the audience with
"If Ever I Would Leave You" and "Old Man River," from "Camelot" and
Yet even Cook said that he had been "very worried about being able to fit in with all that incredible talent on stage."
difficult as it might have been to gather such an incredible lineup of
stars with ties to Lubbock, producer Don Caldwell deserved a salute for
making every effort to also remember absent Lubbock musicians, both old
Overhanging screens on both sides of the huge
stage allowed video messages from the likes of Tommy X. Hancock, still
considered the godfather of West Texas music, and new quartet The
Cactus Cuties, who were busy Saturday at Muhammad Ali's Celebrity Fight
Night, a benefit at the Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Ariz.
With Reba McEntire silently looking on, the Cuties sang their own individual birthday harmony for their hometown.
eyes of many music lovers may have watered while watching a filmed
greeting by Doug Smith, who used his right hand to play the piano for a
few seconds - this from a professional pianist left paralyzed after
flipping his truck in July 2007, who was told he never would play piano
Both Terry Allen and Jay Boy Adams also offered
spontaneous remarks about absent Lubbock electric guitarist Joe Don
Davidson, presently battling liver cancer in Colorado.
Lubbock Legends on stage included singer Donnie Allison, who fought his
way back after being stricken with tongue cancer in late 2006.
"This (singing) is going to be one hell of a surprise to my vocal cords," Allison said backstage beforehand.
the challenge of high notes, Allison opted to perform Buddy Holly's
"True Love Ways," and said, "At the rehearsal, I knew everything would
be all right when the orchestra began playing. It's the Lubbock
the stage design made room not only for a full orchestra, playing in
exceptional fashion under the baton of maestro Tomasz Golka, but also
members of the Lubbock Chorale and varied Texas Tech choral units,
which appeared to include 70 to 80 voices.
Instead of the
Cuties singing the national anthem, which many expected, the show was
kicked off by the choirs and orchestra delivering a powerful "Battle
Hymn of the Republic."
It is safe to say that Lubbock
never has seen the likes of Saturday's concert, with the city orchestra
an immense backdrop for a cornucopia of featured musical styles.
Country and rock shared the bill with jazz, music theater, pop, operatic, gospel, classical and traditional Mexican music.
a way, it was like the old joke about Lubbock weather: If you don't
like it now, just wait a few minutes. Except there was nothing not to
The songs by stars Richie McDonald and Mac
Davis were saved for the last portion, but show-stopping moments
arrived time and again throughout the entire three hours.
Everyone provided music to savor - and images, too.
that Ballet Lubbock's membership danced to choreography by Yvonne Racz
Key while Kenny Maines sang "Thank God I'm a Country Boy."
Just as amazing, dancer Michael Burfield was wearing spurs on his boots during Racz Key's combination of jumps and heel-slapping maneuvers.
different sort of ballet, Ballet Folklorico - and I could not make out
which of our Folklorico companies was dancing - filled the stage with
color and synchronized movement while award-winning Mariachi Amistad
played "El Son de la Negra."
At least three of the evening's major entertainers would shed tears before the evening ended.
had planned to close the show with performances of "Hooked On Music,"
"Texas In My Rear View Mirror," "Me and Fat Boy Pruitt" and "I Believe
But he was visibly surprised and moved when
interrupted by E.J. Holub (professional football star in the 1960s and
Davis' running buddy during his Lubbock High School days) and artist
Centennial executive Linda Gaither
explained that Milosevich had been commissioned to paint a reproduction
of one of Davis' early album covers, which was presented as a gift from
the city of Lubbock.
Gaschen recalls dad
Gaschen's performance of "Music of the Night," from "Phantom of the
Opera" - sung to a music arrangement by Kneupper, who conducted the
orchestra - was chilling, undoubtedly the best version he has performed
At 9:10 p.m., Gaschen received the evening's first of several standing ovations for reenacting his Broadway role of the Phantom.
Preparing to leave after the show, Gaschen had to stop talking for a moment when tears began to glisten in his eyes.
explained, "This was the first time I have performed since my father
died, and ... I know he is ... but I still hope that he is looking
down, and that he is proud of me."
successfully carved a solo career after 15 years with Lonestar, said
that 13-year-old son Rhett was in the audience.
gave way to his emotions for a couple of reasons, the main one being
his memory of Rhett serving as the inspiration for "I'm Already There,"
back in 2001.
"I love you, Rhett," he said.
He told the crowd that it is a "long way" from singing at Coronado High School to singing at the city's largest arena.
hour after the show, McDonald still was making time for friends and
well-wishers. He also mentioned that he had visited the West Texas Walk
of Fame earlier, and seen his own plaque among those of entertainers he
had long admired.
He said, "Coronado is only a few miles
away, but I meant what I said because, as an entertainer, it is a much
longer distance between high school and the United Spirit Arena."
stage, he said to his son, "I'm really proud of you." Later, McDonald
said he hopes his boy is equally proud of what his father has
Meanwhile, this musical birthday party -
which, miraculously and sadly, did not attract a full sellout even at
1960s ticket prices ($15, $10 and $5) - found entertainers riding a
comet to undeniable heights.
Virgil Johnson, 73, put zip
and polish into "Tonight's the Night," making an unexpected, cool exit.
Gillas, 76, has formed a kinship with the song "Once Upon a Time," from
the musical "All American," and once again sang it beautifully with
piano and orchestral backing.
Ralna English thrilled
fellow performers as much as her fans by singing "I'll Be Seeing You"
and "Amazing Grace." Davis even admitted to the high school crush he
had on her.
Allen's 'Peggy Legg'
seemed to know just the right song for a musical introduction, and had
fun singing about his one-legged dancer named "Peggy Legg."
Joe Ely debuted a new song, "Wishing for a Rainbow," before revving up the musical motor via "Me and Billy the Kid."
who said that the Lubbock orchestra never has sounded better, could not
have been more pleased with the ensemble's performance of "West Texas
Suite," which he composed.
That said, Davis seemed happy
to be able to introduce the next entertainer as a "feller" and a
"cowboy," bringing Andy Wilkinson on board to sing, "I'll Be Better
Killer performances also included
professional jazz saxophonist Tom Braxton's energized and exciting
rendition of Steely Dan's "Peg" - and Adams creating a rock guitar trio
at center stage with Mike Carraway and Steve Williams during the
powerful "John the Revelator," with nine backup singers including St.
Marks Chorus members Leon Armstead, Don Armstead and Willis Flowers.
'Not Fade Away'
Performances of Holly's "Not Fade Away" on past Lubbock stages have been more thrilling and pulse-pounding.
Saturday did mark the only time anyone will ever see "Not Fade Away"
sung by Davis, McDonald, Ely, Allen, Adams, Allison, Maines and John
Cain of Mariachi Amistad, along with Braxton, English, Smith, Gaschen,
Gillas, Cook (with his young son Benjamin in his arms), Johnson,
Kneupper and Wilkinson on board, as well.
I'm told it was John Harris who earned a huge laugh by inviting the entire audience to return in 3009 for Lubbock's 200th birthday celebration - even if his math was off.
at hand, look for a documentary film about the 100th birthday
celebration, including some concert performances, to arrive in DVD
format in about four months, said Caldwell.