Live: Texas Tornados, Houston

The great Flaco Jiménez

We’ve written about this act before, probably too many times, but there is no way around it: the Texas Tornados are a great live act. Anchored by guitarist/singer Shawn Sahm (son of the late, very great Doug Sahm), keyboardist Augie Meyers and the very, very great accordionist Flaco Jiménez, the Tornados bring some Texas thunder every place they play.

Thursday night under a perfect sky, and with Houston’s gleaming skyline in the background, the Tornados played a free show in Discovery Green park that drew one of the season’s biggest and most enthusiastic crowds. Of course, the ladies gravitated to Jiménez – even though he’s 72 years old, he gets his fair share of flirtatious notes and greetings from women. He got his own spotlight, with the favorite “In Heaven There Is No Beer,” the polka warhorse given some Mexican spice by Flaco’s deft accordion work.

Shawn Sahm

One lady held up a sign “Flaco for President,” and Sahm mused how great that would be … peace talks could be held at a Miller Lite brewery somewhere, he said.

Much of the band’s set was dedicated of course to the late Sir Douglas Sahm and Freddy Fender, the powerhouse personalities who founded the Tornados way back in 1989. Singer Nunie Rubio sang Fender’s classic “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” and although no one can match Fender’s singular singing style, Rubio did a fine and credible job. Organ player Augie Meyers held his own with “Dinero,” “Velma from Selma” and his own crowd favorite “Hey Baby (Que Pa So).”

The set featured many of the band’s trademark tunes that fuse rock, country and Tex-Mex, including “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of?” and “Adios Mexico.” This time, though, they dipped a little deeper in the Sir Douglas Quintet catalog and pulled out gems like “Nuevo Laredo,” “Texas Tornado” and the stone classic “Mendocino.” They also played crazy accordion-laced versions of “Wooly Bully” and the Southeast Texas classic “Matilda.” And it wouldn’t be Houston if the band didn’t wrap it with “She’s About A Mover,” the Sir Doug anthem first recorded in Houston way back in 1965.

At the end of the show, after the ovations, Jiménez paused to address the crowd. First he reminded everyone to visit the CD/T-shirt table, and plugged his new solo CD … which he said was going to be his last. “It’s time to hang it up,” he said, and although he didn’t seem to rule out playing live Jiménez made it clear he is ready to slow down.

So let’s wish him well – Flaco Jiménez is a five-time Grammy Award winner who’s recorded with everyone from the Mavericks to the Rolling Stones, and he is a classic Texas performer. Hope we can see him play live a few more times before he hangs it up for good.

YouTube: “Mendocino” by the Texas Tornados (from Antone’s in Austin)

Texas Tornados official website

Augie Meyers, with bassist Speedy Sparks and Shawn Sahm.

YouTube: “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of?” (from Texas Music Scene TV)

Nice night under the skyscrapers of Houston.

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