A-J MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR
Mac Davis’ appearance Saturday at the Cactus Theater never was intended to be a formal affair, not with songs as hysterical as “You Brighten Up the Room.”
Instead, it turned out to be a sensational, if casual, Songwriter Night.
Accompanied only by guitar wizard Mike Loudermilk, Davis performed two hours of his own material, granting intimacy by sharing situations and locations that helped elevate, or inspire, his songwriting process.
Within minutes, the show became not so much historical, as Cactus owner Don Caldwell had predicted, as it was magical.
Davis appeared comfortable, charismatic and charming on stage, recapturing energy and feelings from throughout his career, his honesty even hinting at more bitter and reckless years.
Some already know Davis’ 1942 birth date; few present Saturday would have guessed it.
Too many fail to realize that creativity does not disappear in a puff of smoke when blowing out another birthday candle; nor is any entertainer required to exchange his or her talent for an AARP card in the mailbox.
Saturday’s show was a reminder of Davis’ countless success stories, his music and affable personality being trusted jumping off points toward appearances on “The Tonight Show,” his own television program, movies and Broadway.
A few in the audience surprised Davis by waving old album jackets in the air. And he would insist that, after trying so many ways to entertain, his future grave’s headstone will describe him with one word: “Songwriter.”
Or, he added with tongue firmly in cheek, “Maybe ‘Decomposing.’ ”
Davis remains an adept storyteller, as well, and obviously loves hearing his fans’ laughter as much as their applause.
On this day, no story was funnier than one in which Elvis Presley revealed to Davis his heretofore unknown desire to co-star on TV show “Laugh-In,” which aired from 1967 to 1973.
“But the Colonel (Parker) won’t let me,” Presley reportedly told Davis.
Saturday’s headliner stressed that every story told on stage was the truth, the whole truth and so on. “If I’m lying, I’m dying,” said Davis.
Some stories were familiar to those who attended Davis’ April 2005 concert at the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theatre; at that time, it had been 16 years since he last performed in Lubbock.
Saturday’s concert included a number of songs inspired by his son, Scotty, as a youth. That includes a song called “I’ll Be Drinking Christmas Dinner All Alone,” a tale of visitation gone so wrong.
Davis introduced it as “possibly the saddest song ever written.”
When friend George Jones agreed, Davis reminded the crowd, “And remember, George sang ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ ”
Even funnier, though, is Davis’ recollection of listeners still wanting to converse about the subject of hit songs “Watching Scotty Grow,” “Daddy’s Little Man” or “Don’t Cry, Daddy” — with Davis momentarily confusing them by interjecting, always with a smile, “Scotty is 50.”
That said, the background for “Don’t Cry, Daddy” is not what lyrics imply. Rather, Davis happened to be watching a 1968 news report about the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam, when he suddenly realized his son had reached his shoulder and was saying, “Don’t Cry, Daddy.”
Davis also impressed with a few new songs, but the Cactus crowd consistently applauded familiar opening notes.
So any unexpected detours were fun. For example, Davis originally had written “A Little Less Conversation” as a demo for Aretha Franklin. However, most, if not all, at the Cactus expected to hear the arrangement and lyrics recorded by Presley.
Davis instead relied on the original demo’s tempo and inflections, and delivered sizzling soul.
Mind you, he also name-dropped too many to keep up with, whether talking about stealing an opening guitar lick, or bringing back to mind the downward guitar chord progression introducing Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”
The success of “Memories” became more interesting after Davis relayed that Presley was not happy to find himself replaced by the Beatles atop the charts. But it was Davis’ performance that kept the show flowing in entertaining fashion.
A number of times, Davis pointed out that certain songs seem to write themselves, such as “Odie Got a Hot Tub.”
And he was proud that Presley fought to record “In the Ghetto,” even when Presley’s manager, Col. Parker, was dead set against it.
Before finishing a monologue about civil rights, Davis also spoke of a specific Lubbock neighborhood remembered from younger days. “Some called it other names,” he said, leaving the answer open, if obvious.
Yet Davis’ best friend as a child growing up in Lubbock was black, the son of a man who worked for Davis’ father.
It would hardly be fair to share only historical factoids that emerged within the concert. Loudermilk won over fans with a pair of slick instrumentals; such diversions also allowed Davis to take a break.
Still, Saturday’s headliner sang more than 20 songs beautifully — foregoing an encore because of a Meet and Greet already planned after the show.
To sing some bigger hits, Davis also had to share songs from a more sensual era. His “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” written as a joke for a producer demanding “a hook song,” also found Ms. Magazine labeling Davis “Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year.”
He said, “Thank God Paul Anka recorded ‘Having My Baby,’ and took that Ms. Magazine title away from me.”
Not surprisingly, Davis again shared funny songs he wrote after TV audiences suggested song titles.
He probably closes every show with “I Believe in Music,” which might as well be Davis’ theme after so many years. Yet when he sang “Texas in My Rear View Mirror” Saturday, he pointed out there also were Lubbock residents who did not absorb the song’s final verses, in which the singer’s happiness becomes “Lubbock growing nearer and dearer.”
Instead, he recalled a billboard between the airport and his hotel that stated, “You’re right, Mac. Happiness is Lubbock.”
“Looked to me like someone was mad,” recalled Davis.
He kept his date to headline two shows at the Panhandle-South Plains Fair. What he did not keep was an honorary remembrance from Civic Lubbock, Inc.
Too many years would pass before Davis returned, but this time Lubbock awarded Davis the love and respect such a popular native son deserves.
Stating earlier that some songs arrive when a songwriter hears a whisper in his ear, Davis eventually would thank Saturday’s audience for its support — then pause, and recall a lifetime with, “And thank you, Lubbock, for whispering in my ear.”
It was a classy moment, a mutual admiration exchange that provided chills.
On this night, in a small venue that Davis loves for its “mellow funk,” Mac nailed it.
He was in control, throughout, of one of Lubbock’s more special musical celebrations.
Follow William on Twitter
Mac Davis set list
* 1. “Hooked on Music.”
* 2. “Watchin’ Scotty Grow.”
* 3. Combination: “Daddy’s Little Man,” “Whoever Finds This, I Love You” (Davis passed on high notes) and “I’ll Be Drinking Christmas Dinner All Alone.”
* 4. “A Little Less Conversation.”
* 5. “Memories.”
* 6. “The Shape I’m In.”
* 7. “Odie Got a Hot Tub.”
* 8. “Don’t Cry, Daddy.”
* 9. “In the Ghetto.”
* 10. “Where Songs Come From.”
* 11. “You Brighten Up the Room.”
* 12. “My Bestest Friend.”
* 13. “Stop and Smell the Roses.”
* 14. “One Hell of a Woman.”
* 15. “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me.”
* 16. Funny songs: “Mau Mau Mary” (first song Davis wrote; unfinished); “If You Can’t Live Without Me, How Come You’re Not Dead;” “Pink Polka Dots on My Nose” (from TV show), “Burn My Bra” (from TV show); and “I’m in Love with a Cross-Eyed Cowgirl” (from TV show).
* 17. “It’s Hard to Be Humble.”
* 18. “Texas in My Rear View Mirror.”
* 19. “I Believe in Music.”Tags: concert, movie, music, producer, singer, television, tv