I'd never been to MIM, but it's a very nice place; the theatre is just in through the main doors, across from the gift shop (which was open, and very lovely). I bought myself a Nesmith t-shirt and hoodie (which made one of the folks running the merchandise table ask why those were so popular in Phoenix -- it was, I'll admit, still 90 degrees in the days, a little warm for late October, but I have a closet full of coats I'm lucky if I get to wear once a year, so), and a copy of Michael's audio book, about the only thing left from VideoRanch I haven't already bought.
I went over to the bar and picked up a glass of wine, before noticing that you're not allowed to carry drinks into the theatre itself. D'oh. I'm spoiled by Vegas theatres, where drinks are nearly compulsory. So I hastened to finish my drink before the doors opened at 6:30, and went in to find my seat. Glorious! Row C, Seat 7 looked further back on the diagram -- it's practically center, and no more than twenty feet from the stage! Heaven!
After a quick announcement from the museum manager, Papa Nez took the stage, looking splendid in a purple velvet jacket and sparkling loafers (either dark purple or black, I couldn't be sure in the stage lights); and yes, his hairline's a good ways further back than it used to be and there's a whole lot more salt than pepper up there, but when he smiled at the audience, that old sparkle sure still is there, and he greeted the audience warmly.
Movies of the Mind is paintings in words, stories woven into each of the songs Nez chose to perform. He richly told a little story, his voice still tinged with that soft Texas twang, and then began with Calico Girlfriend and Little Red Rider. His singing voice is every bit as good as ever, and he sounded fantastic.
Backed by a four-piece band, including bass, keyboards, drums, and lead guitar -- unfortunately, the only name I remember is Chris Scruggs on guitar (brilliant!), but they were all wonderful. I was sitting on the side with the bass player, who always wore a congenial smile; everyone was "on" for the evening, laughing at Nez's jokes and clearly pleased that they were playing for a very appreciative audience.
Nez had his stories on a tablet placed on a stand in front of him, with a backup laptop to the side. Occasionally as he moved screens forward he'd say something like "Hey, there's a sale at Amazon!" Clearly he was in good spirits and he, too, appeared to be pleased with the audience's reception.
All in all, he performed 19 songs from most of the points of his career, from Magnetic South through to Rays, with numerous selections from ...tropical campfire's.... At about halfway through, he paused for his "seventh-inning stretch," commented how the Cubs were playing the Yankees (well, he had the SPORT right!), and proceeded to sing his very own version of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame," which was every bit as hilarious as anything from the old Elephant Parts days.
His final story lead into Grand Ennui; he came back for two more songs for an encore, closing the show with, of course, Listen to the Band.
The guy's gonna be 71 this year -- and he was just plain terrific. His playing is still sharp (he was playing a 12-string Gretsch; not the old familiar one, but a new one), and while there may be a few more crinkles around his eyes when he smiles, it's still that same old sly, chipper smile.
And while I may never forgive the VideoRanch site for overloading and shutting me out of getting one of the coveted "Meet & Greet" reception passes, well... it was still a great show. Thanks, Nez.
It was the Best Birthday Ever.