Thanks, Kevin Smith, for sharing this photo of your view from the stage at the Willie Nelson & Family show in Missoula yesterday.
This might be the best Willie Nelson & Family Concert I have ever seen. I know, I know, I say that every time I am lucky enough to get to see my favorite band, but last night in Vegas was remarkable.
This was the band’s first show back after an accident last month involving one of the band’s tour busses, which seriously injured band and crew members. Initial reports were so frightening, but, fortunately, the injuries, while painful and serious, were not life threatening. So thank God, or whomever you thank when you are feeling gratitude, give thanks that everyone survived the accident, has been released from the hospital, and after a short recovery period, have all been cleared by doctors to go back on the road! Great news for us fans. Every body was happy to see the crew and band on the stage, doing what they usually do.
And last night’s show at the Golden Nugget Casino in Las Vegas, was their first show back after the accident. The show marked the return of Mickey Raphael, as well, who had taken a short break from the road for personal reasons, and returned last night. It was touching, watching the band come on stage for the show, hugging, greeting each other. I mean, they always get along, I’m just sentimental, but gosh darn it, the Fam-Damily is back, and it felt right, that’s all
The show was so much fun. Willie was on fire, he was amazing, his guitar playing was amazing, so fresh and so fast, it seemed like the band had to scramble to keep up with him on the fast tunes. But then he spent so much time on the slow tunes, the ballads, all our favors, stretching them out, it was like hearing them for the first time again. Other times, he was playing was so sparse and the guitar playing took a back seat to his voice. He puts on such an amazing show, and every one is different.
And it was the kind of night where he would do things like, sometimes he says, “big finish”, and the band knows, I guess, to wrap up the song. But last night a couple times he said, ‘Big Finish”, and then he would wrap around into the song again, one more time. It was so much fun to see how he keeps the band on their toes. He makes it fresh for himself, and that keeps it fresh for the band. Last night fans shouted out requests, and he played them. Someone wanted to hear “Just Breathe”, so he called Lukas up and said he had a request. Someone asked for ‘It’s not supposed to be that way,’ and he said, “Okay, I’ll try to remember the words, and do that later.” Then, he sang it later, and said, “I think I got most of it right.” He really is the band leader on stage and it’s so interesting to watch the ways he communicates with everyone.
Willie spent all night acknowledging the crowd who were crazy about him. “I hear you! I do!” I love when he says that. The theater only holds a thousand people, and that is a cozy space. Willie waved and interacted with the fans like he always does, and it was pretty much a love fest. He took a note from a woman who came up, he bent over and talked to someone in the front row, he played requests that fans shouted out from the audience.
Willie tossed a lot of bandannas, these girls caught a couple. Everyone looks good in a Willie Nelson bandanna, and you can’t wear one and not smile. It’s like bandanna magic, or something. I’ve seen it hundreds, or lots of times.
It was a loud crowd. They mostly sat throughout the show, which is troubling for those of us who like to stand for the entire show, but maybe it’s a casino thing, so I tied myself to my chair, mostly. (I mean, how can you sit through On The Road Again? Right?)
It was so great to see Paul English, who’s toe (foot?) was injured in the bus accident, and treated in a local hospital. He walked out with assistance, but it was amazing he was able to play at all after the recent accident. He played the drums, moved back and forth between the snare and percussion, with Micah. The man is a rock star.
After the show, Willie traversed the stage several times, back and forth, signing, shaking hands. He was out there a long time, then Bobby stayed and signed, and Lukas, who always gathers a gorgeous group of young women, and several drunk men fans.
Annie waited off stage with a jacket for Willie to put on after the show, keeping her man warm. That’s sweet.