photo: Mary Francis Andrews
by: Mary Francis Andrews
Willie Nelson brought his “Family” to a sold out show at the Desert Diamond Casino Theatre Saturday, January 3, 2015 to start the concert season off with a bang! This was one of many sold out shows that Willie has headlined in Tucson. It seems that Tucsonans can’t get enough of Willie Nelson.
This review must be prefaced with a statement that it is impossible to write an impartial review of a Willie Nelson concert when his music in some shape or form has been in the background of our lives since childhood. Country fan or not, the soundtrack probably started with Patsy Cline’s rendition of “Crazy” from the early sixties of the last century. Mr. Nelson wrote the song during his tenure as a Nashville songwriter for ten years. Throngs of fans have those same memories and come out in droves to see the aging legend when his bus rolls into town. Willie Nelson does not disappoint the fans. He still travels approximately 150 tour dates per year. That’s in addition to playing his Farm Aid charity event and his 4th of July annual concert event. Willie has released no less than one album a year.
The “Honeysuckle Rose,” Willie’s bus, rolled into town earlier in the day. The bus is probably Willie’s most comfortable home since he has spent so much time there. One can imagine that Willie napped prior to the show until someone woke him for show time. A face wash, a hair slick-down, a tee-shirt change, a quick massage and Willie was ready for Tucson. He quietly walked on stage and picked up “Trigger,” the most famous Martin guitar in the world and led the band in the first notes of “Whiskey River.” The fans were up on their feet cheering for their hero!
Willie played what seemed like non-stop from one song to the next. There was the traditional “Hello, Tucson” and “thank you’s” between the songs. What made this show special were several factors. First, the set list was all the Willie Nelson classics. The audience knew every song by heart and they were the biggest choral group Willie could have dreamed of having! The newest song was “Band of Brothers” from this year’s album release of new music in June. Willie managed to seamlessly weave the song in to the set as if he had played it for years. Willie’s voice may not be the same as years gone by, but his classic ‘phrasing’ is spot on classic Willie.
Willie’s guitar picking was on par with the best. Willie has been very candid about his admiration for Django Reinhardt’s guitar style. Willie delivered a rousing rendition of Django’s “Nuages.” Willie played guitar solos on “Georgia On My Mind,” “Beer For My Horses,” and he actually played more than he sang. Willie was supported by his long-standing, “Family,” band. His sister, Bobbie Nelson, played piano. Harmonica virtuoso, Mickey Raphael played many solos throughout the show. Paul English played percussion and, his brother, Billy English, played drums. Kevin Smith rounded out the band, expertly played both electric bass guitar and acoustic stand-up bass. Willie’s daughter, Amy Nelson, was also on hand to sing harmony during “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” One must take note that Willie has had a longer relationship with his band members than any of his four marriages. That can also be said about Willie’s relationship with his audience.
Willie finished the 70-minute set by traveling across the front of the stage shaking hands, signing memorabilia, and talking to the fans. This was when he seemed to be the happiest. He left the stage as quietly as his entrance and returned to the bus and left for the next show tomorrow night in Phoenix.
At the age of 81, Willie had seen the bulk of his best buddies and collaborators pass on. He has managed to augment his life with young family and new friends. His music, touring, fans and band remain a stable entity in his busy life. We are all the better for having some Willie Nelson in our life!
For a complete set list, click here. For an ongoing commentary of Willie’s past and present career visit stillisstillmoving.com.
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