Willie Nelson and Family, in Springfield, MO (2/20/2010)

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by Bungalow Bill

It was a piece of Americana with a Texas attitude still strong event two months before his 77th birthday. It was legendary. It was part spiritual. It was the realization of over 50 years in the music business and all the contributions of one man. It was Willie Nelson.

As I sat in the balcony watching Willie from the farthest of distances last night, I couldn’t help but connect him to Bob Dylan and Dylan to Willie. Their music has taken from so many genres and reinvented what they did, which was evident in both crowds. Willie chose a country folk sound and Dylan turned folk to rock and eventually borrowed a page from Willie’s country sound.

It’s hard to not see, in the twilight of both men’s lives, they refuse to hang up–the constant road warriors. They both work harder than the entitlement generation of today, and they both deserve to be on a beach enjoying their accomplishments. That’s not them. They both have their legendary catalogs to share. I match both, because they are travelling gypsies with an eternal music show, at least that’s what the fans hope even though deep down in side, we know this could be the last chance to see either.

Like Dylan, who I saw four years ago, Willie’s singing has become more spoken than sung, but boy can he play the guitar. Willie was the country guitar god last night. Battling carpal tunnel, he was the boss of his simple acoustic guitar.

Nearly each song was met with a standing ovation from his biggest fans sitting in the first 10 rows. At 76, the women still throw bras at Willie, and he acknowledges every piece of lingerie holding it up as if he’s the luckiest guy in the world and then puts them in a collection on a piece of equipment as the band plays on.

His older sister Bobbie plays the grand piano along with him, also an incredible sound. This is just one of those bands that enjoy playing together and you hear it. He played an endless collection of songs that define American culture last night, from Whiskey River to Crazy to Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain to Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys to On the Road

Again, and in the final minutes Willie led the choir of fans with May the Circle Be Unbroken and I Saw the Light. While the Shrine Mosque still remains the worst place I have seen a concert at, I have seen two legends of American music there.

Both shows proved to be an example of a dying art form, where music is from the heart and personal experience–not computerized beats. Even in the country realm, Willie had his fans lifting their glasses minus Toby Keith with Whiskey For My Men, Beer For My Horses, but other than being Willie’s arena anthem for the night, it didn’t hold up to what was coming.

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