Natalie Merchant Discovers Tulsa Hospitality


Saw a great concert last night- plus a wonderful hometown story that I just had to share:

Natalie Merchant played a unique gig with the Tulsa Symphony orchestra this weekend at the University of Tulsa’s Lorton Performance Center. This is a great venue for this type of performance- wonderful acoustics and literally “not a bad seat in the house.” In fact, we were sitting in the balcony and had a wonderful view!

One of our favorite CDs from the Eighties.

She opened with a familiar 10,000 Maniacs tune, belting it out with that powerful voice that became a signature of the early days of “Alternative Rock.” The evening progressed through her 30-year musical career. Along the way she had high praise for our local orchestra and how fortunate Tulsa is to have such a treasure. After the intermission the orchestra was slimmed down and the music became a bit more intimate. So intimate she actually reprimanded someone in the audience, “Please stop filming me.”

But the best was yet to come.

After her final song she left the stage, and the remaining orchestra followed. I was afraid the evening was over- then she peeped out from behind the curtain. Suddenly her guitarist and piano player emerged and the crowd cheered. Then a funny thing happened.

As the guitarist randomly strummed she began a story- a story about her time in Tulsa and why she would remember our city. During the previous night’s performance one of the members of the audience noticed her guitar player’s instrument was held together with duct tape. Turns out that audience member happened to be a luthier (I’d never heard of it either) with the Woody Guthrie Center. So a late night visit to the museum was arranged.

It will probably come as no surprise Merchant is a huge fan of Woody. As she wandered the museum the guitar was repaired and eventually it was midnight and they left looking for food. They notice a place called Taco Bueno, and being from New Jersey didn’t realize what a Taco Bueno actually is. Or more importantly- what it isn’t.

Thinking it was a quaint local place they pulled in, only to discover the doors were locked. Just the drive-through was open. So while waiting in the late-night line they tested out the newly-repaired guitar with an impromptu song-writing session. The Ode to Taco Bueno was born. Apparently the employees enjoyed a late night serenade, while the drive-through lane backed up with irate patrons.

So by now on-stage the piano player has donned an accordion and a rollicking rendition of this new tune is belted out in Spanish. The melody was remotely reminiscent of the old Frito Bandito jingle. I can’t tell you the exact lyrics- but it had something to do with, “Here we are in Tulsa, Oklahoma and behold- Taco Bueno.”

The crowd went wild.

It was obvious we were either witnessing an unrehearsed jam session or she’s a damn good actor. Eventually the trio played a haphazard medley (which she described as a lost American art form) of hits from 10,000 Maniacs. She needlessly apologized for them “letting their hair down” and they played until about 11:00 PM.

We drove home humming Ode to Taco Bueno.


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