Willie Nelson Sold Out Show at Ruth Eckerd hall in Clearwater (2/28/2018)

photo:  Jim Damaske

by: Brittany Volk

The 84-year-old returned to the Clearwater stage Wednesday night to a sold-out rowdy crowd. He smiled and waved, sliding on his red, white and blue guitar strap. Easing right into Whiskey River, Willie made us jump out of our seats; and I was hollering as loud as every

Yeah, he’s still got it. Did we ever doubt it?

Unlike most of the audience, I haven’t been listening to Willie for decades. (It was actually nice to be part of a crowd not watching the concert through their phones.) But it doesn’t matter. His tunes are full of sentiment — You Were Always On My Mind will always make me tear up.

But what struck a chord in us all was his song Still Not Dead, off his latest album God’s Problem Child. It’s a cheeky song that Nelson wrote when the Internet claimed him dead a few years ago. But after his recent bout of flu, we were all just there to celebrate that Willie ain’t dead.

“Last night I had a dream that I died twice yesterday
And I woke up still not dead again today”

He ended that song with a wink. We gotcha, Willie.

Willie showed no signs of wear during the hour of hits. He took breaks, showcasing “little sister” Bobbie Nelson on piano, and throwing out bandanas to the front row, like he was Oprah or something.

To close the show, openers Los Lonely Boys joined him on stage for a lively version of I’ll Fly Away. And even though the night was sprinkled with somber reminders that time slips away, Willie eased our worry. He’s not going anywhere if he can help it. He’s happy to be the Last Man Standing, a new song from yet another forthcoming album.

Willie will always be. And at any age, we can all take comfort in that.


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