Legendary singer Jose Mari Chan dazzles the crowd with his children Franco Chan and Liza Chan-Parpan during a sold-out performance at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. on Dec. 6.  (Filipino Reporter photos)

At 69, Jose Mari Chan only gets better

He may not have the pipes of a Martin Nievera or a Jed Madela or the boundless energy of a Gary Valenciano, but Jose Mari Chan commands the stage like a king — with the adoring crowd as his subjects — and all he has to do is just be himself.

What makes the iconic singer-songwriter stand out is his amazing passion for music, as if he’s making love with every note and every line of the songs he himself penned; as if it’s the last time he’s singing them on stage.

That’s always been how Joe Mari as a concert artist and his Dec. 6 pre-Christmas show at Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. was no different.

Diehard fans braved the inclement weather.

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 thigh-slapping laughter from his stand-up act.

When Joe Mari stepped out 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 acclamations 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 was Philippine ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. and his wife Maria Victoria.

Although age is slowly catching up with the youthful luster of his voice, he remains a master in steering his performance that no one noticed or cared the boyish crooner is turning 70 in March, and is marking his 45th wedding anniversary at the same time.

In fact, he used his aging experience to full advantage in many of his jokes, like when he announced that he’s soon celebrating the 14th anniversary of his 5th 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 everyday.

The crowd’s favorite anecdote was how the singer quipped 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.

“For me, Jose Mari hasn’t changed a bit, his looks, his voice, his extraordinary performance,” said Edelyn Eribal, a business administrator from Atlantic County, N.J.

“He’s awesome as ever.”

Perhaps it helps the man — from a wealthy family of sugar traders — has been writing and recording songs for the last 47 years, not for the moolah 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 Chan-Parpan and Franco Chan, in two separate cover duets that were heartwarming.

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 father sang John Denver’s “Perhaps Love,” while the father and son did Counterpoint to John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “Here, There and Everywhere.”

Both Liza and Franco, who later came back for a Christmas trio with their father, were blessed with impressive vocals they obviously got from their father, as well as good looks from their mother Mary Ann, the last one coming from Joe Mari himself.

The Ilonggo crooner also received 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 also 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 Mendoza, an octogenarian.

They even bought their Joe Mari’s “Golden Collection” CD and had him sign it after the show.

Her U.S.-born granddaughter, who’s in her late 20s, became a Joe Mari fan after getting exposed to the CDs played over and over by her father.

“My favorite of all is ‘Can We Just Stop And Talk A While,’” Zoila Nelson said.

“The song is like no other.”

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 cracks his funny lines that only makes his every act even more unforgettable.

No wonder all his CDs of “Going Home to Christmas” was sold out that night as fans swamped him outside the grand ball for autograph signing that caused the casino hotel security to panic for a few moments.

Although Joe Mari didn’t talk about slowing down from concertizing, it was clear enough, judging from his Golden Nugget performance and crowd turnout, that the Philippines’ king of love songs is here to stay for many more years to come.



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