So over the weekend I got to fulfill a lifelong dream and see Willie Nelson in concert. I almost missed the show because TicketMaster is supposed to tell me when Willie is in my area and they didn’t. Consequently my seats weren’t the best: I was about fifty feet from the stage and all the way over on the right. Being closer would have been nice, of course, but I actually would have preferred to be in the center because the sound in the venue was set up to play to that section of the crowd more so than to those of us on the fringes.
I enjoyed myself during the show. The opening act was Willie’s son Lukas’ band, The Promise of the Real. I could feel the crowd pulling away somewhat during their performance, largely because (I suspect) Lukas Nelson’s music is electric blues/rock and not country. Now these two genres are closely related, but when you get a bunch of shitkickers together they want to hear shitkicking music. There was a lot of traffic to the booze sellers during the opener.
After the sound guys finished tearing down the band’s stuff and brought in the pretty spare set-up for Willie, it was time for the main event. As per tradition, the show opened with “Whiskey River” and for the most part consisted of old favorites with the odd deviation thrown in just to liven things up.
One thing that disappointed me about the show is that the mikes Willie and company used to sing were either picking up too much or too little depending on where the singer was in relation to them. Several times during “Whiskey River” Willie’s voice just dropped out completely because he wasn’t right on the microphone, but when he was on it, there was a lot of distortion. Consequent to this, when he did his between-song patter he was so distorted it was hard to hear what he was saying.
Willie’s performance has something of a jam-band quality to it. His voice isn’t as strong as it once was and he’s played these songs a million-jillion times, so he kind of meanders through the lyrics in a sing-song style and lets his guitar do most of the heavy lifting. The set is also pretty short, about an hour or so, probably as a concession to Willie’s age (he’s 77). At one point he let son Lukas take over singing and there was a lot of grumbling in my section about that.
It was good to see Willie at long last, despite the less-than-great seats and the questionable sound. I would have loved to have been in the first couple of rows because at the end of his show, Willie shook as many hands as he could. I wouldn’t have been averse to catching one of the three bandanas he tossed into the crowd, either. I briefly considered buying a concert t-shirt, but $40 is a little out of my price range, especially since the ticket cost $70. I didn’t take any pictures, either. I’ll just have to make do with my memories.