Dec 292014

Jose Mari Chan with children Franco and Liza during their concert at the Golden Nugget Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Dec. 6  

A few issues ago, Funfare clarified rumors circulating in the US that he was thinking of quitting the concert scene. There’s no reason for him to as proven by his concert at the Golden Nugget Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with his children Franco and Liza Chan-Parpan.

“For two hours, he gave his fans who were out in force not only a vibrant night of easy-listening throwback and original Christmas carols from his album Going Home to Christmas (also the title of the concert), but also non-stop laughter from his stand-up act,” reported Funfare’s Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre who watched the show.

According to Edmund, when Joe Mari stepped on stage (there was no front act) with Can We Just Stop and Talk A While, the crowd right away greeted him with warm applause and cheers that were later followed by more cheering for the equally popular Deep In My Heart, Afraid For Love To Fade, Tell Me Your Name, Refrain, Please Be Careful With My Heart, Christmas in Our Hearts and the encore Beautiful Girl.

Among the VIPs who showed up for support were Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. and his wife Maria Victoria.

“The years have obviously been kind to Joe Mari whose voice remains mellow and soothing,” said Edmund. “He remains a master in steering his performance that no one noticed or cared the boyish crooner is now a card-carrying senior citizen.” (Joe Mari and his wife Maryann Ansaldo have just celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary at the same time.) ”In fact, he used his experience to full advantage in many of his jokes, like when he announced that he’s soon celebrating the 14th anniversary of his fifth birthday, or when he knelt down to pick up something on stage only to admit it’s now a challenge for him to get up easily, or when an 80-year-old couple told him the good side of having Alzheimer’s is you meet new people every day.”

Edmund noted that the crowd’s favorite joke was how the singer claimed that he and his wife, at their age, treat sex as something sacred: They only do it in special religious occasions, like when a new pope is installed.

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“For me, Joe Mari hasn’t changed a bit; his looks, his voice, his extraordinary performance are intact,” said Edelyn Eribal, a business administrator from Atlantic County, who was hollering at the singer’s every joke. “He’s as awesome as ever, a real total entertainer in every sense of the word.”

Perhaps it helps that the man — from a wealthy family of sugar traders — has been writing and recording songs for the last 47 years, not for the money but simply for the love of it. Music, aside from proper diet and exercise, makes him happy and young at heart, he said.

Halfway through the concert’s first act, Joe Mari shared the spotlight with two of his children, Liza and Franco, in two separate cover duets that were heartwarming and almost magical. It’s touching to see the legendary singer become a proud patriarch talking affectionately of his five children, six grandchildren and his wife.

Liza and her dad sang John Denver’s Perhaps Love while the father and son did Counterpoint to Lennon and McCartney’s Here, There and Everywhere.

Added Edmund, “Both Liza and Franco, who later came back for a Christmas trio with their dad, were blessed with impressive vocals they obviously got from their father, as well as, joked Joe Mari, good looks from their mom.”

Joe Mari got remarkable support from his band led by seasoned musical director Lerrick Santos, the always brilliant San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir under Jun Penaverde and the Sounds of Manila Band. He was also joined for duets by Fil-Am singers Kay Habana and Tiffany Viray for Like Night and Day and Please Be Careful With My Heart, respectively.

Produced by Group Ole, with stage direction by Marisse Panlilio, the concert was packed with genuinely funny spiels and anecdotes (some of them new, some rehashed) that were flawlessly delivered and acted by Joe Mari who is apparently gifted with natural comedic flair.

Unlike the crass kind of comedy of some Pinoy performers, Joe Mari’s brand of humor is classy and well-thought-out, “pang-intellectual at pang-sosyal level,” as retired Manhattan R.N. Remedios Mendoza put it.

Mendoza, who saw the show with his daughter Zoila Mendoza and granddaughter Zoila Nelson, said she marveled at Joe Mari’s comedy as much as she enjoyed his music. “We are three generations of women in our family who came here for Jose Mari Chan,” said Remedios, an octogenarian. They even bought their Joe Mari’s Golden Collection CD and had him sign it after the show.

Said Edmund, “One thing good about Joe Mari’s humor is that he never crosses the line of decency and never disrupts his songs with jokes or side comments many Pinoy artists are inclined to do. He waits till each song is completed before he delivers the comedy goods that only make his every act even more unforgettable.”

The show’s musical director, Marisse, commented, “May respeto siya in every song he sings, maybe because he also treats his songs like his babies. The guy’s got class and tremendous talent, not to mention a good heart.”

 All of the Going Home to Christmas CDs were sold out that night as fans swamped Joe Mari outside the grand ballroom for autograph signing. The rush made the casino hotel security panic for a few moments.

Although Joe Mari didn’t talk about retiring or even slowing down from concertizing, it was clear enough, judging from his Golden Nugget performance and crowd turn, that the Philippines’ King of Love Songs (a “title” Edmund is henceforth giving to Joe Mari) is here to stay for many more years to come.

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