In a twist from the normal order of things, the crowd starts the show by singing "Happy Birthday" to the 74-year-old Murphey to kick off the night of 18 songs and even more personal and intimate stories. Michael talks of family, one of the many traits that endears him to an ever-increasing fan base, and how his life continues to roll like a river, with its ebbs and flows along the way, which segues into "South Canadian Ocean." The fan-favorite song itself builds and grows like an expanding river as his clear, crisp voice courses in this tremendous opening song.
A technical glitch, which the crooner calls "The Ultimate Murphey's Law," is fixed and MMM and his son, Ryan, on mandolin, are alone on stage for "Boy From The Country." First recorded by John Denver, Murphey shows his pride as he sings the line, "boy from the country, he loves his son."
Continuing with his family, he tells that his grandfather ran away from Kentucky at age 11 so he wouldn't have to work in the coal mines and came to Texas to raise a few cows. Starting the cowboy life for the singer is the basis for "Cowboy Logic" as Sammy Davenport switches from keys to the accordion to accompany Michael's finishing yodel.
Murphey launches into "Red River," which he sang at his father's funeral, as the great instrumentalist Milo Deering switches from steel guitar to fiddle adding an additional highlight to the music. From Austinology : Alleys Of Austin, Paul Piper nails a difficult drum beat on the late Steven Fromholz's "Texas Trilogy" that elicits a well-earned round of applause.
The bigger hits begin with two songs dedicated to Murphey's parents - "What's Forever For" and "I Come From A Long Line Of Love." Michael's voice is still tremendous and Piper rocks the kit to set up the songs. Huge rounds of applause rock The Granada and then Ryan ends the first set with "Skipping Stones," a poetic song about his time with his grandfather.
Murphey comes back and begins the second set talking about switching from North Texas to UCLA and the "wilder" times that it encompassed. He sings "Backslider's Wine," written after returning to Texas, and the well-known song is backed by the always-steady bassist Gary Roller and a pulsating drum beat.
"Alleys Of Austin" from 35th album tells the history of Austin music as he was at the forefront with Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Gary P. Nunn, Jimmy Buffett and other greats of the birth of the Americana genre when Rolling Stone magazine named him America's best new songwriter. Murphey's still-tender voice suddenly booms and becomes even more expressive, one of many highlights of "Geronimo's Cadillac" as everyone in the tight-knit band plays a solo and shines.
The crowd laughs as MMM tells of his famous producer "knowing" the next song would never work in the disco era, but Willie told the six-time gold album singer to record it anyway. The audience goes absolutely wild as the band starts playing "Wildfire" with a haunting keyboard intro and outro to set the mood. The fans sing it word for word and it ends in an venue-rattling standing ovation for one of Dallas' favorite sons.
As usual, MMM finished the night on the banjo with "Carolina In The Pines" that brings the emotion out in every member of the audience. The night finishes with "Honolulu" with Michael and Ryan alone on stage for an emotional, not a political, ending that honors his family full of veterans who sacrificed to protect our country. The charged crowd stands and honors their own families and thank Michael Martin Murphey for a night of great music, stories and memories.
The audience stays and talks about the show as the band members come out to talk to friends. Paul Piper introduces me to the band who are as nice as they are talented, and are still appreciative of their fans after so many years. It's a great way to end a terrific evening of music and camaraderie.