Willie Nelson & Family, Clearwater, FL., (2/16/2011)

Photos by: Andrew Silverstein

by:  Gabe Echazabal

For all the disappointments and letdowns that are all too prevalent in music nowadays, it’s nice to know that certain artists will never let you down. Living in a time of false idols, auto tune and manufactured overnight sensations, the favorite son of Texas and country music legend Willie Nelson still has plenty left in his bag of tricks as he proved at last Wednesday night’s sold-out show at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. [Photos by Andrew Silverstein]

Nelson, the consummate outlaw and the true maverick of country music, has been dazzling his adoring legion of fans for close to 50 years now and judging from last week’s show, he shows no signs of slowing down. His 90-minute set was chock-ful of every Nelson classic any fan, from the casual to the diehard, would want to hear. Sure, his signature songs were there; “Crazy,” “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” and “One The Road Again” drew wild responses from the mixed-age crowd, which ranged from teenagers to senior citizens.

Quite a showman and an entertainer, Willie always manages to make his performances as personal and intimate as possible by sharing his own brand of witty anecdotes and involving his loyal audiences as much as possible. Whether encouraging fans to sing along to the tunes they know so well or taking time after his performance to sign countless autographs at the lip of the stage, Willie Nelson’s goal is to reach out to the folks who’ve paid good money to see him and give them a night to remember.


Playfully cavorting through his truckload of hits, Nelson and his band touched on his 1984 monster smash duet with Julio Iglesias, “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before” and luckily for us, Willie handled all of the vocals himself. “Good Hearted Woman” was dedicated to Willie’s late partner in crime and fellow outlaw, Waylon Jennings. Nelson also managed to sneak in some newer material (”Superman,” “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore”) and the crowd ate it up.

It’s rare to see someone who’s had a career as long and fruitful as Willie Nelson still out there doing what he does best night after night. He’s not only provided his loyal followers with a wealth of great music for half a century, he’s also passed along his musical genes to his children.

Nelson’s 22-year-old son opened the evening backed by his own hotshot band, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. Straddling the line between straight up outlaw country and Allman Brothers-styled jam rock, Lukas and his three-piece got the crowd rowdy and riled up. The younger Nelson took the stage barefoot and ready to rock. His long stringy hair was a whirlwind as he maniacally flung his head around while wielding a mighty mean axe. Lukas even reappeared as part of his dad’s backup band and took center-stage for a mean version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas Flood” and didn’t miss a lick.

There were no fancy gimmicks or tricks to speak of; just an awesome display of sheer talent and showmanship from one of the business’ very finest and the son he’s taught to walk in his footsteps. And, judging from the loud and appreciative crowd in attendance, that’s more than enough for them.
More photos by Andrew Silverstein HERE

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