Chuck Mangione comes to Wickenburg.
Last night, I had the privilege and pleasure to sit second row center at a Chuck Mangione concert. In Wickenburg.
Say what you will about Wickenburg’s lack of nearly everything — as I [too] often do — but it has two extraordinary things that make life here a bit more interesting. One of them is the Del E. Webb Center for the Performing Arts. And each year, the folks who manage the Webb Center do a damn good job at lining up entertainers to inject a little culture into this otherwise cultural black hole.
The annual lineup is always a mix of entertainers. There’s country music, jazz, dance, spoken word, and more. While most acts will appeal to adults — after all, more than half of Wickenburg’s winter population is over 55 — there are usually a handful appropriate for families. That’s great (if local families take the kids out) because it exposes them to quality entertainment with a higher cultural value than what they’re probably watching on television. What’s great about the Webb Center is that while adult ticket prices are in the $30 to $45 range, kids tickets are usually just $5.
Mike and I normally attend one or two performances at the Webb Center each season. In November, we saw “A Charlie Brown Christmas with the David Benoit Quartet.” Mr. Benoit and his companions played a combination of their own music, as well as classic Peanuts music by Vince Guaraldi. It was a great show and perfect for the upcoming Christmas season.
Last night’s performance by Chuck Mangione and his five-piece band was, by far, the most enjoyable performance I’ve attended at the Webb Center. The music was full of energy — my foot was tapping from the very first note to the last. Each member of the ensemble took turns entertaining us with solos while they played Mangione favorites like Bellavia, Main Squeeze, and Chase the Clouds Away, Children of Sanchez. They played for 90 minutes without interruption, left the stage, and returned to a standing ovation to play the classic jazz hit, Feels So Good. Mr. Mangione quipped that the song had put both his daughters through college.
After the show, most people left quickly, as they usually do at the Webb Center. But those of us who remained behind got the opportunity to meet Mr. Mangione in person. There was quite a crowd for him, which was great to see. I was one of the last to step up. I’d bought a CD at the end of the show (as I usually do) and Mr. Mangione autographed it for me while I thanked him for coming to Wickenburg.
Last night’s concert was sold out, which is always great to see. There were people in the audience who had come from as far away as Connecticut and Tennessee just to see the show. It’s somewhat embarrassing when “big name” musicians like David Benoit or R. Carlos Nakai and William Eaton (who came last year) come to Wickenburg and play to a half- or three-quarters-full house. After all, the Webb Center only has 600 seats — you’d think we’d be able to get 600 people to come to a live performance that didn’t require a lengthy drive down to Phoenix or Scottsdale. Unfortunately, not everyone in Wickenburg understands or appreciates the value of this great cultural facility. For those of us who do, it’s a special treat.
And in case you’re wondering what the extraordinary thing in Wickenburg is, it’s the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. Don’t let its appearance from the street fool you — it’s bigger and better than it looks. Next time you’re in Wickenburg, see for yourself.