Willie Nelson Dazzles at Lindenwood
by: Daniel Durchholz
There’s just no stopping Willie Nelson.
At age 81, the legendary country singer and songwriter is still “On the Road Again” seemingly as much as he is off.
But Nelson is human, after all, and his October concert at Lindenwood’s J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts had to be postponed due to illness. His sold-out show Thursday night was the make-up date and more than made up for the inconvenience.
His 90-minute set touched all the bases. Backed by his Family band, including stalwarts Bobbie Nelson on piano, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, and percussionist Paul English, Nelson played his classic hits, songs made famous by his friends and country music heroes, plus some gospel favorites and one quick mention of his status as a guru of ganja.
But while his performance was a definite crowd-pleaser, it also served as a showcase for Nelson’s inimitable guitar stylings. With no backup guitarist, Nelson forged ahead on his own and turned in one dazzling solo after another, each of them containing a crazy logic that had far more to do with jazz than with country music.
The show started in familiar Nelson fashion, with “Whiskey River,” “Still Is Still Moving to Me” and “Beer for My Horses.” “Let’s do one for Waylon,” Nelson said, charging into Jennings’ hit, “Good Hearted Woman.”
He also played his usual medley of the country standards he penned for others — “Funny How Time Slips Away”/”Crazy”/Night Life” and turned the spotlight over to his sister Bobbie for the instrumental “Down Yonder.”
As the show unfolded, Nelson included songs by friends Kris Kristofferson (“Help Me Make It Through the Night”) and Billy Joe Shaver (“I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train”) and a medley of Hank Williams tunes.
There were plenty of Nelson’s own fan favorites, too, including “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and “On the Road Again.”
But the show’s true standout moments found Nelson soloing on Trigger, his famous worn and weathered guitar, which looks like it could collapse at any moment. Nelson performed a gorgeous, romantic take on Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” and added a flashy, Flamenco-style “Ou Es-Tu, Mon Amour” onto the front of “I Never Cared for You.” He and the band also romped through a high-stepping version of “Under the Double Eagle.”
The set closed with a gospel segment that included “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “I Saw the Light” and what Nelson called a “new gospel song,” “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”
That particular spliff, one hopes, is a long way away. At this point, Willie Nelson is still smokin’ and is nowhere near being smoked.
Willie Nelson set list
Still Is Still Moving to Me
Beer for My Horses
Good Hearted Woman
Funny How Times Slips Away/Crazy/Night Life
Me and Paul
If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time
Help Me Make It Through the Night
I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train
Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
On the Road Again
Always on My Mind
Jambalaya (On the Bayou)/Hey Good Lookin’/Move It on Over
Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain
Under the Double Eagle
Ou-Es Tu, Mon Amour/I Never Cared for You
Will the Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
I Saw the Light
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