By Teresa Mallam
Jun 29 2007
The Red Headed Stranger is a stranger no more. Not to the crowd who almost filled to capacity the seats at the CN Centre Tuesday night â€“ Willie Nelson let them feel like theyâ€™d known the legendary singer songwriter all their lives. Fans Iâ€™m sure got fuzzy vibes from the country music icon and the genuine warmth spread over to family and friends brought along for the ride.
I still have a sore back from where a frenzied fan in the seat behind me was expressing his appreciation for the one and only Willie Nelson. His enthusiasm was shared by 4,400 other concert goers who clearly loved him. Concert is probably a misnomer. Seeing Willie Nelson live is more like a regular town hall meetinâ€™ in the Cariboo.
The country croonerâ€™s been around a long time of course. So you expect a polished performance. Still, his style is more about people pleasing than polish. Though I donâ€™t know if heâ€™s ever recorded it, he has a â€œTake Me As I Amâ€ approach on stage. He may have reached his greatest fame during the â€œoutlaw countryâ€ movement in the 1970â€™s but as one of the last of great outlaws, Nelson, at 74, is still spry. His face lights up with smiles. He has a spring to his step and often twirls to face his band with his acoustic guitar. He sounds just as good as ever and as always, is in no rush with his songs. No old man jokes for him. Still, it was like he was calcified in time. Same red hair, parted into braids, same look â€“ plaid shirt, cowboy hat, faded blue jeans. Same guitar called Trigger.
The evidence that time has passed came with a proud introduction of his offspring, two sons: Micah on bongos and Lucas who rocked on electric guitar â€“ meet the next generation of talented song writer/musicians. Willie and Lucas delighted the audience with a duet, mixing guitar styles and sounds and taking turns with vocals. Dynamite.
More than one person told me between sets, â€˜Iâ€™m not really a Willie Nelson fan but I love his songs.â€™
That apparent oxymoron would no doubt please Willie who is more troubadour type ballad singer, content to let his songs speak for themselves in talking about everyday life. My favorite Willie Nelson song of the evening was Good Hearted Women perhaps because I think of it (vainly) as kind of my â€œtheme songâ€ when it comes to relationships. Actually relating to most of Willieâ€™s songs is easy. He was able to pack so many of them into his CN Centre performance for only one reason – he seldom talked. There was little banter with band mates though clearly the singer has a sense of humor. Maybe he figured he couldnâ€™t get it all in â€“ people in the crowd shouted out requests all night â€“ if he didnâ€™t keep things moving.
He managed to please with many old standards like Blue Eyes Cryinâ€™ In the Rain, On the Road Again, Whiskey Woman, Mamas Donâ€™t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys, Stardust, his own sweet stylings of Patsy Cline hits Crazy and Funny How Time Slips Away. The softly song ballad, Take the Ribbons From Her Hair and the timeless classic Georgia were both greeted with applause even before he got the first line out. Another clear front runner was All of Me. Willie showed his charm to the ladies in nearby rows by taking his trademark bandana off his sweaty brow and throwing it to them.
He did that a few times reminding me of Elvis and his sweat soaked white chiffon scarves. The only difference – these older fans didnâ€™t scream as loud or as much. They saved their best and wildest applause for the iconâ€™s last number, giving him a standing ovation and chanting â€˜We Love You Willieâ€™ above the final twangs of his guitar. All in all, a night to remember. A legend on his own time