Veteran Gene Watson keeps great voice going

Justin Brake
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Concert Review

When revered country veteran Gene Watson took to the stage at Mile One Centre Saturday night, he hadn't a clue what he was in for.

The 64-year-old Texas native and singer of hits like "Paper Rosie," "Fourteen Carat Mind" and "Nothing Sure Looked Good on You," and his band The Farewell Party made their debut performance in Newfoundland.

Country singer Gene Watson's hello to Mile One was delivered inn a great big voice and a promise to return. - Submitted photo

When revered country veteran Gene Watson took to the stage at Mile One Centre Saturday night, he hadn't a clue what he was in for.

The 64-year-old Texas native and singer of hits like "Paper Rosie," "Fourteen Carat Mind" and "Nothing Sure Looked Good on You," and his band The Farewell Party made their debut performance in Newfoundland.

"I'm scared to death folks," he joked after his first few songs. "I feel like I'm under a microscope."

With not many more than 1,000 in attendance, Mile One's theatre setup wasn't filled, but there were enough diehards in the crowd to constantly remind Watson he had some lost time to make up for.

Opening with his 1979 hit "Should I Go Home or Should I Go Crazy," he lay bare his ability to hold a note and take his predominantly middle-aged and senior fanbase back to his decades of glory.

It wasn't so much the quality of the performance, however, that the veteran hecklers in the audience were interested in, but rather his hits.

Each number segued into a story and each story into another song, but the requests kept coming, interrupting the perhaps excessively polite singer in the middle of almost every yarn.

"Shut up," he finally asserted in his Texan accent, addressing a woman sitting in the stands who had disrupted him about a dozen times. "You're messing up my loosely put-together show."

The crowd laughed and applauded and the show went on.

"Love in the Hot Afternoon," Watson's first hit, dating back to 1975, was well received by the audience, many of whom were watching through binoculars from the stands.

As was "Paper Rosie," which he dedicated to the woman he had just silenced - even though she hadn't really relented.

"Fourteen Carat Mind" satisfied a few more of the anxious hecklers, but more often than not Watson found himself humbly apologizing for not being able to perform all the requests, due to the absence of his piano player, Joe Eddie Gough, who he announced was "on sick leave" after a divorce, or because the band just hadn't performed the song in so long.

On the whole, the performance was short by industry standards (only 16 songs, including the encore), but you couldn't help but feel bad for Watson, who couldn't get through a single story without interruption.

One thing's for certain though: at 64, he can still wail.

He closed with his "most requested song" of all time, "Farewell Party," and returned to the stage for a one-song encore, a classy rendition of Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again," which he recorded for his latest record, "Matters of the Heart."

Impressive opener

Grand Falls native Rod Jackson opened the show, playing a short but solid set, including impressive performances of "Cheater," "She Still Guides Me" and "Be My Hands," the title track from his latest album.

When Watson told the Mile One audience he would return someday to fulfil the requests he couldn't perform, it could have been his Texas-sized manners speaking, or perhaps he will go as long as George and make a grand return.

Let's just hope he keeps that voice.

Organizations: Farewell Party

Geographic location: Texas, Newfoundland, Grand Falls

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