Jose Feliciano performed Friday at the Savannah Center.
A nagging cough hounded Jose Feliciano Friday night but it wasn’t enough to stop him from delivering an explosive and magnetic performance in the Savannah Center.
Feliciano, 69, displayed remarkable dexterity playing guitar, moving his fingers and hands with speed, agility and surgical precision. Despite the cough, his vocals resonated with strength and power.
This concert was a testament not only to Feliciano’s talent, but also his grit, and dedication to his fans. “I want to thank-you for making my career,” he told the audience near the end of the 2-hour concert. “I never forget who made me – you did.”
It seemed to be an emotional night for Feliciano who wore a black suit on stage and was bundled up with a grey and white scarf around his neck. He showed mastery of the music he has played during his half-century in show business. The blind singer/guitarist paid tribute to those who have influenced him, including: Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Les Paul, and even Michael Jackson.
Feliciano has his own legacy, especially for Latin musicians. “You were there before we were there,” Carlos Santana told Feliciano in a video biography that was shown before the show began. Such artists as Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan and host of others have praised Feliciano for breaking down musical barriers for Latin performers.
“All Latin people are proud of Jose Feliciano,” said Titina Parsons, who lives in The Village of Mallory Square with her husband, Jerry. They attended the concert with three generations of their family. “He represents the Latin community with his music and it means a lot of all of us,” she added.
Feliciano opened the concert with the thumping beat of “Chico and the Man.” It was the theme from the 1970s’ television sitcom starring the late Freddie Prinze.
Then Feliciano went back to his own rock and roll roots with a rousing cover of Elvis’ early breakthrough hit, “That’s All Right (Mama).”
Feliciano skipped a few musical generations for his next number, a smooth and funky cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” He began the song with a stunning guitar solo that made the whole crowd want to moonwalk.
“I can’t believe I’ve accomplished so much,” said Feliciano, who has earned the prestigious Billboard Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award. “Where else could a guy from Puerto Rico accomplish so much.” During the concert, Feliciano frequently talked to the crowd. “I just feel like talking,” he said. He played some Spanish songs and then went back to the first hit that he wrote himself, a ballad “Rain.”
It brought back memories, even for Feliciano. “As time goes by, my fans bring me albums to sign. I look different on those old albums, but I’m glad people still remember my music.” Then he played a newer song, “No me Olvides,” a melancholy number about never forgetting those you love. “I still like to make new music and try new things,” Feliciano said.
His band added to the singer’s musical presence. It featured Bob Conti on percussion; Al Payson, bass; Tyler McHugh, keyboards and Tyger MacNeal, drums. They all combined with Feliciano for the real showstopper of the night, “Oye Como Va,” made famous by Santana. Feliciano and his crew took the song and made it their own. He switched from acoustic to electric guitar and was romping through licks that would have made Santana proud.
Feliciano then started a slow number, but quickly had to stop to tune his guitar. “I’m sorry, but I have to do this,” he told the crowd. “Justin Bieber doesn’t tune, but I don’t have to follow him.”
Next it was time to pay homage to Frank Sinatra. Feliciano spoke about how much he admired Sinatra’s music and he played a slick and cool jazz version of “The Lady Is a Tramp.” He then performed a couple of his best known hits from his 1968 breakthrough album. The first was “California Dreamin’,” made famous by the Mamas and Papas. Feliciano capped an exquisite performance with his all-time classic, “Light My Fire,” originally done by the Doors.
Feliciano explained that he and the band would have to catch a 3 a.m. plane to play in Reno, Nevada on Saturday night. “I’m not going to get much sleep tonight, thank you all for coming to see me,” he said and left to a standing ovation. But then – despite an early plane ride – Feliciano returned to the stage for two encores. The first was the tender and mellow “Che Sara.” Feliciano then decided to send the people home in rocking style with a blistering cover of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say” that turned into a foot-stomping sing-a-long.
About the only song Feliciano left out was his all-time Christmas standard, “Feliz Navidad.” “I kept wanting him to sing it, but I guess it’s April and too early for Christmas,” Titina Parsons said. That was about the only disappointment for this show.
“For our family, this was a very special, intimate concert,” Austin Parsons said. “I think Jose is an inspiration for all people. He never let a physical disability stop him. He maximized his talent and brought so much happiness to so many people. You could feel that happiness tonight.”
Villages-News.com by Tony Violanti