El Rey says “Adios”

In Entertainment on April 15, 2013 at 8:00 am
Vicente Fernandez Sr performs in front of a sold out Stockton Arena

Vicente Fernandez Sr performs in front of a sold out Stockton Arena

You’re underestimating how popular Vicente Fernandez is. I sure did. I thought I knew what I was getting in to. The 73-year-old Latin sensation has released over 60 albums with a majority of them achieving gold status or better and is the undisputed king of ranchera music. He has sold out arenas all over the world for decades and has sold out the Stockton Arena three times since its opening. His latest effort was to be his last as he embarks on the final leg of his farewell tour, a string of makeup dates for shows he had to cancel after a lump that was later revealed to be benign was discovered on his liver. He is insanely, incredibly popular and one of the music industry’s true legends. Knowing all of that still doesn’t really prepare you for the moment he arrives on stage.

Vicente Fernandez Jr opens for his father

Vicente Fernandez Jr opens for his father

One of the early clues that I was ill-prepared for what I was about to experience were the lines. The sheer amount of people wasn’t the surprise, it was what they were waiting for. The longest lines for anything aside from to actually enter the arena were to take pictures with the cardboard cutouts of Vicente Sr. that were placed throughout the arena by his sponsor, Budweiser. That cardboard cutout was probably even more popular than Vicente’s son, Vicente Jr., who performed a 30-45 min set before his father’s performance. That’s not a knock on Vicente Jr., who warmed the crowd up admirably for his dad, it’s just a testament to the enormous shadow he must live in.

A packed Stockton Arena surrounds Vicente Sr who performed in the round

A packed Stockton Arena surrounds Vicente Sr who performed in the round

Once Vicente Jr. finished up, the once-filled arena concourse became a ghost town. Everyone that had yet to find their seats were rushing into the arena for their final chance to say goodbye to the man appropriately referred to as “El Rey”. Then, in the most literal example of a man needing no introduction ever, Vicente Sr just sort of appeared. The assembled media had been positioned on the side of the arena opposite of his entrance, so with essentially no warning the entire arena stood up and erupted into an ovation that rivals anything I’ve ever experienced. Almost immediately members of the audience began chanting “El Rey” at him. The standing ovation lasted almost 2 minutes and that was before he even uttered one word.

Vicente Sr begins his set

Vicente Sr begins his set

Once he actually began to perform it was clear why he is considered the standard bearer for his genre. Even at 73, his voice still held up as he belted out his classics. Having suffered through somewhat embarrassing live performances from Bob Dylan and The Who’s Roger Daltry, it was refreshing to witness a performance from someone whose talents hadn’t betrayed them later in life. He wasted no time whipping the already electric crowd into an even more rabid frenzy. I can’t even begin to pretend to understand what was being said at a show performed entirely in Spanish, but the performance transcended any language barrier. Backed by a World class mariachi band, Fernandez and the crowd often sang in unison. Periodically he would stop and hold the mic in the air and let the crowd finish the verse. After each song he would graciously thank the crowd. It was easy to see why he is so beloved. Even after half a century of performing, he maintains a humble respect for his audience that is reflected back towards him tenfold. After Saturday’s concert it was clear that he wasn’t just a legend in Mexico, but one in Stockton as well. One that will truly be missed in retirement.


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