Willie Nelson and Family in Dallas (10/27/07)

(photo by Jason Janik)

source:  http://www.dallasnews.com/
by Mario Tarradell

The elder statesman always does it his way. Willie Nelson’s set Saturday night before 14,600 fans at Smirnoff Music Centre featured his usual players such as Sister Bobbie Nelson, drummer Paul English, harmonica blower Mickey Raphael and guitarist Jody Payne. The proceedings were stripped down. The gig had a quiet, intimate feel. They could have been working a coffeehouse.

That was a major contrast to co-headliner Pat Green and Randy Rogers Band, who preceded the Fort Worth-based singer-songwriter. Surely the other three acts on the main stage, Eleven Hundred Springs, Old 97’s and Cory Morrow, also cranked up the country-rocking volume.

But Willie kept it cool.

Deadlines only permitted seeing the first 45 minutes of his stint. It was quintessential Willie. He opened with Johnny Bush’s “Whiskey River,” of course, and diligently ran through classics such as “Still is Still Moving to Me,” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “Always On My Mind” and “On the Road Again.”

When Mr. Nelson launched into a Southern gospel medley that included “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “Amazing Grace,” Mr. Morrow and Mr. Rogers joined him on the platform. The two Texas country young guns shared incredulous looks, as if they were stunned to be singing with the legend.

Mr. Morrow made his way onto Mr. Green’s set as well. They sang “Texas on My Mind,” one of Mr. Green’s older staples. That song is from the days when he was an independent artist playing every stateside dancehall and honky-tonk. “Southbound 35,” another tune from that era, remains an anthem about the freedom of the road. It turned into a jam between him and his six-man band.

Those salad days are gone. Mr. Green now has a high-powered Nashville manager, records for one of the industry’s biggest labels and gets his songs on country radio.

Yet he hasn’t forgotten his roots. “Way Back Texas,” his current single, pays homage to his home state. As he sang the song, images of bluebonnets, the Fort Worth Stockyards, the Alamo and downtown Dallas flashed on the video screen. Other highlights during his 75-minute performance included the melodic “Three Days,” the Springsteen-influenced “I’m Trying to Find It,” and his sing-along hit, “Wave on Wave.”

Mr. Rogers and his four musical mates put on a competent show, too. You could hear the artistic maturity in newer songs such as “Before I Believe It’s True,” “Kiss Me In the Dark” and “One More Goodbye,” all creative leaps from the outfit’s early repertoire.

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