Willie Nelson at the Fillmore (1/19/09)

Photo by:  Janis from Texas

by Angela Zimmerman

Willie Nelson is 75 years old. When exactly did that happen? I hadn’t seen him since back in ’99 on a Farm Aid tour, and that was at a massive amphitheatre outside of DC, and even then he effortlessly carried the crowd—beloved pot-smoking, farm-saving American institution that he is. Well, Willie at the Fillmore Auditorium is a whole different story.

I’m telling you people, if you get a chance to see him at such a place, do it… He’s getting up there in age, although you would not know it from hearing him. The man has mad energy, and he sounds fantastic. Quite simply, he’s an old pro.

Joined by his son Lukas on this evening, a virtuoso blues guitarist in his own right, Willie showered a crowd of slightly drunk, adoring patrons in red, white, and blue, the kind of patriotism that wears a sweaty bandana around his long grey braids and sings you off to a place where America is all that you really want it to be.

Though I attended the show by my lonesome, Willie Nelson would be best experienced with a partner, a drunken buddy to put your arm around and sway with, singing along to “On the Road Again”, “You Were Always On My Mind”, and “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, the old faves that you remember from way back when, no matter your age. Such was the crossover appeal of the night, with seemingly disparate trends blanketing the crowd: A flask-swilling cowboy alongside a loose-tied, suited executive standing behind a bespectacled, black-clad hipster.

Willie has a way of bringin’ the people together. His set was long, his band was tight, and songs from the dusty Texas plains were delivered from his rock solid, rusty heart into that of our newfound hopeful American consciousness.

A five-night residency at the Fillmore with one of America’s most enduring musicians was a most fitting way for many of us to spend the dawning days of a new presidential administration, and I dare say the symbolism ran rampant and was inherently clear in each of us packed into the venue that night.

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