A Magical Night at the Municipal

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SHREVEPORT — The Shreveport Municipal Auditorium has somehow escaped my notice all these decades. I drove over from Longview for concerts a few times with high school buddies, but they were held in the spherical but unremarkable Hirsch Coliseum next to Independence Stadium right on I-20. I saw Black Sabbath there, and other bands whose names escape my memory. It is certainly a useful multi-purpose arena, noted, perhaps apocryphally, for being the place where, in 1957, the phrase “Elvis has left the building” was first uttered.

The Municipal, on the other hand, is a beautiful example of Art Deco now approaching its centennial. Located just west of downtown, it was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1929, to the soldiers who fought in the Great War. It served as a barracks for soldiers in its early years and even housed an early aircraft warning system — now known as radar — according to its website. The Municipal boasts a beautiful, elaborate ceiling, with backlit octagonal panels divided by decorative beams. A $5.3 million upgrade several years ago spiffed up and modernized the venue. It truly is one of the area’s crown jewels, as one reporter put it. With a seating capacity of 3,000, it can still host big-name acts.

We were seated on the front row in the orchestra section, with an elevated view of the stage — the largest around — about 30 feet away. If that stage could sing, the tunes we would hear from some of the greatest performers of the 20th century. The Louisiana Hayride started on that stage in 1948, a program that showcased some of the biggest names in country music, such as Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

Then there’s Elvis Presley. He first stepped on the Municipal’s stage on Oct. 16, 1954, after signing a contract to play every Saturday night on the Louisiana Hayride program for $18 a show. The website states Col. Tom Parker whisked Elvis away 18 months later, but it was on that venerable stage that the King perfected his moves. There’s a statue in front of the Municipal of Elvis, and a street named for him as well.


Last Saturday night it was Lyle Lovett and his Large Band taking that stage. The four-time Grammy winner is difficult to categorize. His songs range the gamut from traditional-sounding cry-in-your-beer country ballads, to jazz and swing, with a healthy dose of rock tossed into the musical salad. We saw him playing a solo acoustical set, trading songs with John Hiatt, three years ago. The Large Band is a different animal, with 16 highly talented musicians joining him, including four brass players; three male backup vocalists; famed drummer Russ Kunkel (Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Jimmy Buffet and many others); renowned bassist Leland Sklar; and several others of note. All of them had their moment to shine on that stage, vastly enriching the experience. All were dressed in black suits with white shirts and skinny dark ties. Lovett, as always, was impeccably dressed in an obviously expensive suit and a pair of custom-made cowboy boots,

Lyle Lovett is one of the most self-effacing yet downright funny musical performers I have ever seen, with a dry wit and sense of timing that is impeccable. At 64, he is the father of 4-year-old twins, which led to my favorite song of the night, “12th of June,” named for the day they were born. It is a loving, tender song to his wife and children.

Know of all the days I loved
I loved best the 12th of June

The acoustics of the Municipal are excellent. One could clearly hear every musician without being blasted out of the place, even as close as we were. I think even Elvis would have been impressed by this two-and-a-half hour concert. I know I was.

And to these beautiful two children
And to my sweet and tender wife
I will love you three forever
Though I fly beyond this life

            It was a magical night at the Municipal.

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