Written by Tanya Pedersen
Apr 29, 2011 at 08:00 PM
This past February, Mr.Willie Nelson was slated to play in town at the Verizon Wireless Theater. This HMR Bitch was completely stoked to have the opportunity to cover his show. Mother Nature, however, had different plans. The day of the show, the gig was rescheduled due to inclement weather. Talk about taking the wind out of my sails! Luckily though, I was again given the opportunity to see the Legend when he came back to town last month.

Upon walking into the concert hall, I felt the excitement of the most diverse crowd I had ever seen. The fans ran the gamut- from young kids to extremely elderly folks, and at least 7 decades were solidly represented. This crowd was a people-watcher’s paradise- from goth to cowboy, businessman to drag queen, hillbilly to high cotton… They were all there, and it was evident they were where they wanted to be. And of course, there was a plethora of pig-tail braids and bandanas.

When the lights went down, an immediate hush fell across the crowd, followed by an amazingly loud roar as WN walked across the stage to his guitar. His band quickly grabbed their instruments, and then the words…. “Whiskey River take my mind…”, and so it began. All it took were those words, and WN had his audience in the palm of his hand, and he kept them there for the entire show.

Although there is no denying the musical ability of WN, I must also give props to his band. The band was a force of it’s own. WN has been playing with these guys so long, it’s almost as though they are extensions of him. I must give special props to his harmonicist, Mickey Raphael. I love harmonica, and I’ve never heard it played so crisp and clean, and yet so down and dirty. His sister Bonnie played piano, and the Houston crowd gave her a Texas size welcome when WN announced her to come out and play. Paul English was on percussion and Bee Spears was the bass player. These two have been playing with WN for decades, and it shows….. and only in a good way. Their charisma and energy shone through, and it was evident that they all truly still enjoy playing together.

WN effortlessly threw all his well-known songs out there for the crowd. Good hearted woman was so well received, I think he could have completely stopped singing and just listened. He made it a crowd participation song, complete with lights shining on the crowd to prompt us for our turn, however, the cue was not needed…. everyone was already singing along anyway. We just got louder when we had to shout “In love with a good-timing man”.

He started to sing a bit of Patsy Kline’s “Crazy”. He sang one verse, but it sounded so good, I wish he would have sang the entire song. But, he went into “Nightlife Ain’t No Good Life…. which was another fine moment in this wonderful show. And it went on and on…. “If you’ve Got the Money Honey” and of course, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” were huge with the crowd. My personal favorite of the night was when he played “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”, which is a song that I’ve loved ever since I was a little girl. It was one of the few times that the crowd listened quietly, and it was a very nice moment in the show.

This mellowness didn’t last very long, as WN immediately got the crowd going again with “On the road Again”.   A huge moment in the show was when WN talked about and then sang the song he recorded with Snoop Dogg, “Superman”, that he wrote while he was recovering from Carpal Tunnel surgery. “Too Many Pain pills, too much pot…. Tryin’ to be Something That I’m Not… Superman…”. Again, the audience went wild. The first time I saw WN I was about 12 years old and he played the Beaumont Civic Center. I remember standing up in my chair, holding up my Dad’s lighter. I was completely enthralled. I always thought it was because it was my first concert. Nearly 25 years later, I’ve discovered that it wasn’t just because it was my first concert, but was in large part because it was a Willie Nelson show. All I can say is that, even at 78, he seems 10 feet tall and bulletproof. Thanks, Willie…. you always entertain!