Willie Nelson in Phoenix at the Dodge Theater (1/25/09)

dodge1photo by:  Luke Holwerda

by Martin Cizmar

Taking the stage with “Whiskey River” as a giant Texas flag unfurled behind him, Nelson and his a five-piece Willie Nelson Family Band were tight.  Nelson had no second guitar to back him up, but didn’t seem to need it, playing a few loose, engaging guitar solos throughout the night.  Longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael had plenty of chances to shine, soloing on number of songs, including a few nice bits on a trio of Hank Williams songs in the middle of the set (full setlist below). 

Highlights included a rousing version of the Carter Family’s “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By),” “Good-Hearted Woman” (dedicated to Phoenix’s own Waylon Jennings) and “Me and Paul,” a song built around some funny stories of the 40 years Willie’s spent with his drummer.

The thing I expect to remember most about the show, though, is the way Willie spent the evening making every effort to connect with the crowd. Willie and his band are the sort of consummate professionals you’d picture playing their set the same way in an empty room, but Willie spent every spare moment on stage deftly tying red bandannas on his guitar neck, then wearing them for a song or two before tossing them to the appreciative crowd.  After his encore-less set was over he took nearly 10 minutes to make his way slowly across the stage, shaking at least a hundred hands and signing everything in reach.


1. “Whiskey River”
2. “Still is Still Moving to Me”
3. “Beer for my Horses”
4. “Funny How Time Just Slips Away”
5. “Night Life”
6. “Down Yonder” (Instrumental)
7. “Me and Paul”
8. “If You’ve Got The Money (I’ve Got The Time)”
9. “Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain”
10. “Good-Hearted Woman
11. “Jambalaya (On The Bayou)”
12. “Hey Good Lookin'”
13. “Move on Over”
14. (Instrumental)
15. “Georgia on My Mind”
16. “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”
17. “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”
18. “On The Road Again”
19. “Always on My Mind”
20. “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)”
21. “Help Me Make It Through the Night”
22. “Pick Up The Tempo”
23. “City of New Orleans”
24. “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”
25. “Rainy Day Blues”
26. “Bloody Mary Morning”
27. “I Saw The Light”
28. “I Ain’t Superman”
29. “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore”

to read Mr. Cizmar’s entire review:

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