Willie Nelson Show at Huntsville, AL (11/1/07) (Review)

source:  www.blog.al.com
by Chris Welch

There’s always a lot of talk about how long the 60ish Rolling Stones can and will perform. Same with The Who and a few other performers like Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, Tony Bennett and the legends who continue to perform on the Grand Ole Opry.

But country singer Willie Nelson proved something to the 5,000 or so fans gathered at the Von Braun Center Arena Thursday night – he may be able to go longer than any of them. And not just go on, but perform just about as well as he did nearly 50 years ago when the legendary Red Headed Stranger got started. 

Nelson, 74, rolled into town on his bus right before 8 p.m. Thursday – the showed opened with Lee Brice at 7:30 p.m. – and then got off his bus with bandmates Bobbie Nelson, his sister, on piano, drummer Paul English, percussionist Billy English, bassist Bee Spears, harmonica player Mickey Raphael and guitarist Jody Payne. Nelson, who no longer does the typical fan meet and greets, shook a few hands outside the VBC, signed a guitar WDRM gave away, posed for picture or two, then hit the stage.With the huge Texas flag as the background, Nelson opened with the traditional “Whiskey River” and didn’t stop until about two hours later, when he closed with the gospel favorites, “Amazing Grace” and “Uncloudy Day.” It’s truly amazing how strong Nelson’s vocals are after all these years of hard touring and livin.’ And his incredible guitar playing on Trigger, his well traveled and worn guitar, hasn’t missed a beat, either. Maybe he’s right – maybe the herbs do help keep him young.

Dressed in a black shirt, cowboy hat and hair in braids, Nelson sang hits like “Crazy,” “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys,” “Georgia,” Always on my Mind,” “On the Road Again,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Beer for my Horses,” “Help me Make it Through the Night” and “All of Me.” On “All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” he added the humorous line “the girls I “owe and owe and owe and owe,” probably referring to his four previous wives (he’s on No. 5).

He often stepped out of the spotlight and let his sister – “Little Sister Bobbie” – show how talent indeed runs in the family. Her piano play was highlighted on several songs and she also performed a couple of her own songs, including “Pinetop Boogie,” from her debut CD, “Audiobiography,” which came out in September.

Nelson also let Payne have a couple moments in the spotlight, including his song, “Working Man Blues,” but this was the only downside to the show. Payne’s voice seemed strained and certainly not holding up as well as Nelson’s.

It would have also been nice to hear Nelson chit-chat about his life and songs during the show, but then there would have been less music. You can’t have it all, right?

Nelson also sang the Gospel favorite “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” “Pancho and Lefty,” “City of New Orleans,” “Luckenbach, Texas,” “Seven Spanish Angels” and offered to play two new songs from his new CD due out in February.

“Can you handle that?” he asked. He said he wrote the songs when he had to rest after carpel tunnel syndrome surgery. One was called “Superman” and the other “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore,” both showing Nelson’s humorous side.

He looked like he was about through for the night, but then said, “Do you have time for two more new songs?” He played “I’ve Got to Get Over You Again” and “A Moment of Forever.” Most fans left the VBC Arena, indeed, hoping the Red Headed Stranger will go on forever.

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