Willie Nelson opens new Austin City Limits Theater (2/13/2011)

by Steve Albert

Willie Nelson graced the stage of the new ACL Live at the Moody Theater Sunday night.
He opened his concert playing with an orchestra and later his band.

The new venue is connected to the W Hotel. In honor of Willie, the W sported a pair of his trademark braids. People captured the historic event with their cameras.

Willie Nelson Boulevard was bustling with more activity than usual for a Sunday. Before the concert, a crowd of people gathered inside the hotel– waiting in anticipation for Willie to take the stage.

“I’m so excited,” exclaimed Lorie Keaton. “I just bought my first pair of boots ever and they even have lots of bling on them.”

Gerald Kucera was at the first ACL taping more than 30 years ago as a U.T. college student. He remembers Willie taping the pilot episode of “Austin City Limits”

“There’s nothing like Willie,” he said. “Willie is great. You can’t miss this. I am looking forward to a fantastic evening and an ostentatious atmosphere; there’s nothing like it anywhere.”

“35 years ago Willie was the first opening band to do the show, and we’re here to open it up for February 13, 2011,” said Tosco Gruber.

Fans came prepared to hear a great show and their favorite songs.

“I want to hear Whiskey River,” said Sid Hurley.

His wife Elizabeth said she is waiting for Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.

The state of the art theater will seat more than 27-hundred people. More than double the size of the old studio. It will host 75-100 concerts a year with a wide range of acts.

“I’m so excited to be in this venue. I’ve read all about it,” said Hurley.

The venue will be a mixture of the old and the new Austin City Limits. The TV Show– The longest-running music series in U-S history– will share the space with ACL Live.

“Austin the live music capital of the world,” said Rocky Navarro. “We have more live music than anyone else in the United States and this is just the cherry on the cake.”

A new chapter in Austin’s music history begins.

Willie Nelson isn’t the only big name to play ACL Live at the Moody Theater.

This spring, you’ll see Diana Ross, Janet Jackson and John Mellencamp.

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