Wednesday, July 04, 2012

TOP STORY >> Musical salute to America

Leader staff writer

“Jamming with the MTB (Marshall Tucker Band)! What a night! I love my job!!” country singer Candy Coburn tweeted to her Facebook page shortly after her performance at the Patriotic Spectacular on Sunday night.

She said she loved returning to Jacksonville for the second year in a row. Even though the crowd was small, it was enthusiastic and enjoyed singing along with Coburn and the Marshall Tucker Band on a number of songs, including “Can’t You See.”

Held at Jan Crow Stadium at Jacksonville High School on Sunday evening, the annual event featured the Gloryland Youth Choir, Coburn, three veteran motorcycle groups, a salute to past and present military members and the Marshall Tucker Band.

The only thing missing was fireworks.

Mayor Gary Fletcher apologized to the crowd of about 400 — event organizers counted 1,200 all through the night, including band members, press and security — but said it was the right decision to make because of the hot weather and dangerous fire conditions.

Pastor Cedric Hayes and about two dozen members of his famous Gloryland Youth Choir from North Little Rock opened the spectacular with a number of faith-based songs and the Star-Spangled Banner.

Between performances by Coburn and the Marshall Tucker Band, members of the Rolling Thunder, Patriot Guard and combat veterans motorcycle groups helped honor area veterans.

In a switch this year, event officials asked members of each branch of service to come forward to take their branch flag from the motorcycle guard and walk on stage when their service song was played.

Volunteers jumped up for every branch except the Coast Guard. Officials picked a young boy to stand in for that group, and he did it proudly.

The motorcycle groups motored in the flags after the choir finished up. As they were circling around the track with the flags, five-year-old Charles Vanderhorst asked his dad if the motorcycles were racing.

After the posting of the colors and a special salute to POWs by the motorcycle clubs, Fletcher took the stage to welcome the crowd and to apologize for canceling fireworks. No one booed, and some even applauded his decision.

Soon after, Coburn took the stage for about 40 minute with her brand of rockin’ Texas flavored songs.

She took a break after her second song to sip some water and said,

“I’m so glad it’s not as hot as last year and this year I’ve even got air on the bus,” she said even though her generator went out earlier in the day.

Coburn grew up in Dexter, Mo., with event coordinator Angie Mitchell’s family.

“I went to high school with Angie’s brother and we all went to the same church,” Coburn explained.

It was that friendship that got the singer to Jacksonville last year and she enjoyed it so much that she came back this year.

Between songs Coburn coaxed the audience to leave the stands and come up close to the stage, then she went down the stage steps to interact with the crowd.

Coburn, who is best known for “Pink Warrior,” the anthem for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, saluted Janis Joplin with a rousing version of “Me and Bobby McGee.” She also sang a new gospel-themed song “Rolling stones, which she told the audience was “hot off the skillet.”

She told everyone that this fall she was beginning a nationwide tour saluting military men and women and that she considered her stop in Jacksonville to be the kickoff for that tour.

She also sang “Coming Home,” a poignant song about the sacrifices made by veterans and others.

Alyssa Christian, 15 of Jacksonville had a great seat for Coburn’s performance. She was on the grass just feet from the stage leaning back on her backpack. She said Coburn was really great.

In one of her songs, Coburn came right up to Mya Taylor, 10, of Jacksonville, who was on the grass closest to the stage.

Taylor enjoyed it so much that she went to talk to Coburn afterward and have her picture taken.

She asked to go on the bus, but Coburn said without the generator there were no lights to see anything and told her maybe next time.

Taylor was excited about the Marshall Tucker Band, which was setting up as she talked to Coburn, but admitted she had no idea who they were.

But two young girls —Devyn Greb, 9, and Mackenzie Featherson, 8, both from Jacksonville — will always remember the Marshall Tucker Band because they were invited up on stage at different times to play tambourine with founder and lead singer Doug Gray. Gray let both girls keep the tambourines he had given them.

Greb got to sing parts of “Can’t You See” with Gray even though he had to whisper the words in her ear.

Two days later, as Featherston’s family was driving in the car, she still had her tambourine, playing it, singing what words she could remember and saying she wanted to tell all her friends she was on stage with legends.

The Marshall Tucker Band took the stage at 9 p.m. and Gray immediately said, “I know you all were told to stay a certain distance away from the stage but we want you right on up here on the steps nice and close. Now relax, let’s have a good time and we’ll keep you up as long as you want.”

The band played for about 90 minutes touching on all their major hits and threw in some blues and country along the way.

In many of its songs, the band featured flutist and saxophone player Marcus Henderson and guitarist Chris Hicks.

Grey got Coburn back up on stage to jam with them on “Can’t You See” and had the crowd enthusiastically joining in too.

The band ended the night with probably their best-known hit, “Heard It In a Love Song,” and even though the crowd was small they clearly showed that they loved the band’s performance and the band responded with an encore.