Last of the Breed (Loveland, Colorado) March 12, 2007

I’m tired, and I only did two in a row.    Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys, and Asleep at the Wheel are doing fifteen shows in seventeen days.  Yeah, you read that right, fifteen shows.  They are doing five shows, taking a day off, five shows, another day off, and then five more shows!

Getting to see these talented singer song-writers, these legends, was like  a mini Fourth of July picnic, only it wasn’t the 4th of July, and I wasn’t sitting in the Ft. Worth stockyards about to pass out in the 100 degree Texas sun.  But it was a chance to see Willie playing with other artists, see them enjoy that fellowship when these friends get together and play and sing together, laugh and try to make the other guy laugh.  It was so much fun.

The Budweiser Center sits outside of Loveland, Colorado, on the Larimer County Fairgrounds, known as “The Ranch.”  On Sunday night Disney on Ice was there, and Tuesday night was going to be Hockey, but on Monday night there were about six thousand of us feeling only the heat of these legends.  The show unfolded just like all the reviews I’ve read, but here’s the schedule and songs from the Loveland show.

Ray Price came out at 7:30 and played for about thirty minutes.  He was dressed in blue jeans, crisp white shirt, western style black jacket.  He looked smooth and sounded good.  When Ray sang started singing his hits, six thousand fans swooned in unison.  Ray and his band the Cherokee Cowboys (who play like a finely tuned Swiss watch) sang:  San Antone, Crazy Arms, Someone Else’s Love, Lonely All the Time, Heartaches by the Number, City Lights, I Won’t Mention it Again, the Other Woman, My Life Story (You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.), Make the World go Away, For the Good Times, and a tribute to his friend Hank Williams, Loveless Mansion on the Hill. (Sorry, for wrong titles.)  Ray kind of danced off the stage, to a standing ovation of fans who didn’t want him to leave.

But, we all knew we’d see him again.  So, we relaxed for the 15 minutes it took Ray Benson and his fine band to set up. Unfortunately, they played only a couple tunes, “Route 66” and Miles and Miles of Texas.  They were the best back up band ever, but anything less than a classy band like this would not work for Willie, Merle and Ray.  The best for the best.

After their short set, Merle Haggard came out, and the hall exploded (again).  Merle Haggard has a lot of fans in Colorado, that’s for sure.  Merle played fiddle with the two fiddler’s from Asleep at the Wheel, and it was electric.  Then he sang some beautiful songs:  I wonder if You Feel the way I do; Take me Back to Tulsa; That’s the Way Love Goes; Silver Wings, Stay Here and Drink; The So-Called Social Security Song,  (There’s another tune in there, too, but I didn’t know name, sorry.) At some point, Mickey Raphael drifted on stage, and was playing his harmonicas, and contributing this beautiful wall of sound like only he can. Then, when Merle moved into Okie from Muskogee, I got so excited, because I’d heard that this was when Willie comes on stage.  Suddenly, I could hear Trigger, couldn’t see Willie yet, but could hear him playing guitar.  Then he came on stage, smiling just looking fantastic.  The crowd went wild again.  How much more could we take?  I could feel the ice melting under my feet, I swear. 

Willie said, “How about it, Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Asleep at the Wheel!  It doesn’t get much better than that.”  So true, Willie.  Then Willie and Merle played these songs we love, Poncho and Lefty, Reasons to Quit, Ramblin Fever, with lots of long guitar solos by Willie on Trigger and Merle on electric guitar.

Another highlight in a night filled with highlights was when Willie announced they were going to sing a new song, “Back to Earth.”  (From Song Bird, written by Willie, as Mikey so kindly pointed out in the comment!)  It is so beautiful  Here’s the lyrics, or as close as I can come to  them.  It starts off with a beautiful piano solo. 

Back to Earth

I guess my heart just settled back to earth
I know the dream so wild and free, for all that dream was worth.
But true love is both a blessing and a curse
And I guess my heart just settled back to earth.

I remember what you said, that night so long ago
The dream for you had ended and you let me know.
So I found some [sky that’s blue], trying keep my dream alive
Everything I did just made it worse
I guess my heart had settled back to earth

The songs I have created, I still sing
Evey night we make the rafters ring.

And tonight I’ll sing for everything I’m worth
And let my heart just settle back to earth

(long guitar solo)

The songs I have created, I still sing
Every night we make the rafters ring
And tonight I’ll sing for everything I’m worth
And let my heart just settle back to earth

Tonight we’ll sing for everything we’re worth
For all the hearts that’ve settled back to earth

Then Willie invited Freddy Powers out, and the two of them sang, “I’m gonna sit right down and write myself a letter.”  Freddy has produced albums for Willie, and written songs for Merle.  Asleep at the Wheel drove the swinging beat, like they can do so well.  Willie and Freddy did such a great job on the song.  Freddy got lots of applause when he left the stage after the song.

Then Willie said, “I saw Ray Price lurking around here somewhere.”  He invited Ray Price back on stage to sing “Nightlife.”  Ray sang and Willie played guitar, and everyone screamed.  Willie and Merle both took long guitar solos; Willie on Trigger, and Merle on his electric guitar.  Then the three of them sang Pick Me up on Your way Down, I’ll Keep on Loving You, I love you so Much it Hurts, Roly Poly. 

Then Willie broke in to “On the Road Again”, and got the crowd even more worked up, if possible, He sang Superman, Whiskey River, You were Always on my mind.  I missed his Family Band, but I enjoyed hearing the fiddles backing him up.

Long post, but lots to say!

See this show if you can, or buy the cd on the 20th. 

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