“Gary Morris: One Man, One Guitar, One Night”
By Donnie Matsuda
Photos Courtesy of www.garymorris.com
While I’m not a fan of country music, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the long list of accomplishments noted in Gary Morris’s biography. He won both the County Music Association and the Academy of Country Music’s Song of the Year Awards for his legendary rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings,” he played opposite Linda Ronstadt in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of La Boheme, and he won a Drama Desk nomination for his heroic portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway. In addition, Morris has had a prolific 30-year career in the country music industry, having produced twelve albums that generated sixteen Top 10 singles and five No.1 hits, including “Baby Bye Bye,” and “Leave Me Lonely.” To top it off, he’s performed at the Grand Ole Opry, for every U. S. President since Jimmy Carter, and even for the Queen of England. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to see him perform live in San Diego with his one-man concert simply titled, Gary Morris: One Man, One Guitar, One Night.
For all his accolades and impressive career highlights, Gary Morris can’t help but be himself (a humble Texas-born county singer/songwriter with a “let’s get down to business” attitude) during his casual one man concerts. Looking like a scraggly version of Kenny Rogers, Morris started his concert at the Birch North Park Theatre by moseying onto stage, nary a nod of acknowledgement of the roughly 250 cheering fans in the audience, slung his guitar (or “gee-tar” as he calls it) over his shoulder, and started in on a few of his bluesy country ballads.
He then addressed the audience, nonchalantly noting that he was in New York the night before and will have to catch a 6am flight out of San Diego to travel to Oregon and then back to New York, stating with a look of bitter discontent: “Welcome to my world.” He went on to joke about how the temperature in New York was 57 degrees (unusually warm for New York) and the temperature in San Diego was 57 degrees (unusually cold for San Diego). He then quipped, “When planning my San Diego trip, I didn’t know if I should pack a parka or a swimsuit.” Finally, he explained how the rest of the evening would go: he’d take song suggestions from the audience and sing whatever songs they wanted to hear and whatever songs he could remember the lyrics to. For the next hour and a half, he tackled a long list of audience favorites, including “South December Road,” “Finishing Touches,” “100% Chance of Rain,” “Velvet Chains,” and concluded the first act with his most well-known song, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
After a brief break, he opened Act Two with a soulful rendition of “O Holy Night.” He called his sound guy onto the stage to sing a powerful and rousing “Bread and Water,” and then Morris took the stage again singing a lovely holiday medley of “My Son”, “Away in the Manger,” and “Silent Night.” He also sang his signature “Bring Him Home” with a hauntingly evocative high tenor and concluded the concert with a slow and sweet “Amazing Grace.”
This concert was no doubt a great evening for Gary Morris fans and the audience was filled with his most ardent and appreciative followers. Many of the audience members knew his songs by heart and tried to help him out when he forgot his lyrics (which happened quite a few times during Act One).
Regardless, there was definitely no shortage of song requests throughout the evening. If the audience had their way, he would still be crooning his county hits all the way till 6 in the morning.
Gary Morris: One Man, One Guitar, One Night played at the Birch North Park Theatre on December 16th, 2011. Running time was 2 hours 20 minutes with one intermission. For more information about Gary Morris, visit his website at www.garymorris.com. For more information about upcoming events at the Birch North Park Theatre, visit http://www.birchnorthparktheatre.net.