Willie in Utah (9/4/06)

Willie Nelson is sheer perfection
By Josh Loftin

Deseret Morning News
WILLIE NELSON, Deer Valley Amphitheatre, Monday. September 4, 2006      DEER VALLEY — Not even Willie Nelson can outperform the legend of Willie Nelson.  

      Monday evening at Deer Valley seemed the perfect set-up for a truly memorable and deservedly sold-out Nelson concert, with perfect weather, mountains tinted with the early signs of fall and no other acts on the bill to distract from the braided-and-bearded one. And it was Labor Day, one of the great American holidays that would, theoretically, bring out the best in one of America’s icons.

      Curse the burden of expectations.

      Insert just about any other musician’s name into this review, and the riches of the concert would appear ridiculous. Nelson played more than 30 songs over the course of nearly two hours, including almost every one of his greatest hits, a half-dozen classics from other country legends, and even a couple of new tracks, highlighted by the frustrated bed-rest anthem “I’m No Superman.”

      Additionally, Nelson sounded as good as ever. He moved deftly between the softer vocals of “Always On My Mind” to the medley of “Time Slips Away/Crazy” to the soaring sing-alongs of “On The Road Again” and “May The Circle Be Unbroken.” He even put his guitar-playing on display, tearing off some impressive solos during “If You’ve Got The Money, I’ve Got The Time” and a honky-tonk take on “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground.”

      Other high points were crowd favorite “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” the always incredible “Pancho and Lefty” and the gorgeous “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain.” He also did some impressive takes on songs made famous by other singers, including “Me And Bobby McGee” and “Working Man’s Blues.”

      Despite all of those stellar marks, however, the show still seemed lacking. The early start time practically demanded a three-hour performance, which is horribly selfish to expect from a 73-year-old man still recovering from carpal tunnel syndrome.

      And without an opening act, the show ended before dark, leaving many fans lingering to tell stories about other marathon concerts they had seen from Nelson.

      A bigger problem, at least for those on the upper half of the ski hill, were remote speakers continually shorting out, which left fans straining to hear the music emanating from the stage speakers. Once may have been forgivable, but the problem lasted the entire show, and, at times, was not even temporarily fixed for multiple songs.

      In the end, however, the concert boiled down to one fact that redeemed every problem — this was Willie Nelson, an American legend, playing on Labor Day.

      That is just about as much perfection as is needed.

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