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Fender wastes no nights

Galaxy Theater, Santa Ana, Cal., Feb. 14, 1998

By Dan MacIntosh

SANTA ANA, Cal. - On this Valentines Day, the Galaxy Theatre was packed with couples of every age to celebrate this special occasion for all lovers. Decked out in various shades of red, the women - who came to swoon over the king of Tex-Mex, Freddy Fender - filled out the sweetheart spectrum:from short-skirted young girls, to little old frumpy grandmas.

Contrasting with the sea of red in the audience, Fender came out in all black, and opened with a blues jam on "Next Time You See Me," which he utilized to get warmed up with some mean guitar licks of his own.

The sextet was a tight, un-star-studded unit, except for the fact that one of the two keyboard players just happened to be Texas Tornado and Sir Douglas Quintet alumnus Augie Meyers, who also doubled this night on accordion.

One wonders why the group needed to muddy its sound with two keyboard players, when it already had one legendary musician in the band. It would have been far better to have heard an undiluted taste of Meyer's always tasteful playing.

Although Fender sounded smooth on his electric six-string, his greatest instrument has always been his high and pure voice.

Attendees got their chance to thrill to this still beautiful sounding musical wonder when Fender got down with the old Fats Domino classic "Blueberry Hill."

Those close to Fender claim that he's given up the smokes and the drink, and this lifestyle reform appeared to pay great dividends for this performance, as the singer's voice floated effortlessly over his large backing band's playing.

His concert repertoire was drawn liberally from the classic country and rock & roll songbooks. These country standards included a spotless reading of Willie Nelson's "Crazy," and a Tex-Mex run through on Hank Williams' "On The Bayou."

Fender also put his own border music style to many rock & roll oldies this evening, as he sounded like a long lost Neville brother on the ballad "Tell It Like It Is," and even jokingly introduced the Ray Charles soul classic "I Gotta Woman" as a song about Bill Clinton.

His singing and playing clearly showed that he was enjoying himself while he was performing, but because he was born with a stone-faced facial expression, it was really hard to tell this by just looking into his eyes.

A third of the way through the show, Fender stepped away from the microphone to give Meyers a chance to sing a few hits from his side project, the Texas Tornados.

The combination of his silly songs and warm stage manner injected some well-needed humor and audience participation into the proceedings.

Both "Hey Baby, Que Paso" and "Guacamole" became lively call-and-response sing alongs.

After Meyers got his two cents in, Fender resumed center stage for his two big hits, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and "Wasted Days & Wasted Nights."

Fender came back to encore with another Tornado tune, "Who Were You Thinkin' Of," before closing with one last country weeper, "Crying Time."

This would cap off an hour-and-a-half of tejano, country, and rock & roll music for this 500 plus house. Fender may not have had a legitimate solo hit since the Seventies, but on this night, he most certainly proved that his heart, as well as his voice, is still in it.

And contrary to what his hit song says, this evening was certainly no wasted night.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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