Written by David Clements
Jan 13, 2012 at 8:00 PM
ImageThe Hag…if you like country music like I do you already know what is to follow in this review.  My wife and I had the opportunity to go to Biloxi, MS to listen to and photograph Merle Haggard.  The venue was the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino.

A near full house witnessed a 90 minute set of legendary songs by a legendary artist.  Hag doesn’t have a lot to say between songs, but he says enough that you know he loves this country and all that it stands for…and don’t get on the fighting side of him!

His set list is a ‘Greatest Hits’ collection of songs.  He had 36 #1 hits to pick from and it seemed to me that the audience approved of his choices.  His fiddle player opened the show just long enough for the Strangers band to get loosened up.  It was surprising to me, though, that Merle’s son Noel did not start things off as he has in previous shows.  Noel is very talented and can command the stage.

And speaking of Haggard’s family members, the band’s lead guitarist is his youngest son, Ben.  The two lovely back up singers are his wife Theresa, and his daughter Dana.

When he took the stage, Merle looked like he was nursing a cold (I learned later that is was in fact pneumonia and resulted in 7 cancelled shows across the Southeast).  I am happy to report that it did not seem to impact his vocals and he performed at an energy level that belied his 74 year age.  He reacted with pleasure as the fans watching responded with enthusiasm and applause at nearly every song.  He even mustered a couple of smiles!

ImageUnfortunately, some fans responded with a little too much enthusiasm and that took a little something away from my enjoyment of the show.  I’m okay with an occasional ‘we love you Merle’ between songs but some audience members were excessive.  It also bothers me when someone nearby is singing along to their favorites, but please…I really don’t want to hear your version above the real thing.  And PLEASE no ‘Free Bird’ requests!

This pleasant experience was topped off by getting an opportunity to chat with the Hag’s road manager, Frank Mull, a classy guy.  He shared that Merle will be teaming up again soon with Kris Kristofferson.  You can expect to read that review soon after their tour starts no matter how close they get to Houston.  Have camera, will travel!