Congratulations, Houston music fans! We are barely a week into the new year, and you already proven to Aftermath that our dreams and hopes for a new decade of change and decorum during live shows was just that: A wish that will never come to fruition, right up there with hoverboards, world peace, and a Smiths reunion. Saturday night at Arena Theatre, Willie Nelson trotted out all of the hits that you know him for, and a few more you probably forgot he wrote, all the while digging into the careers of others and giving their cuts new life. At this point in his career, the legendary songwriter could charge people to watch him merely perform twelve rote cuts that you would find on any bargain-priced compilation you could pick up at a truck stop.
But the man still has an artistic pull, so he can meander whenever he feels the spirit so move him. We still go see him, even though we know that he will open and close each show with "Whiskey River," a few people will be the proud owners of a new stage-worn red bandana and that "Trigger" will always be there waiting for him when he hits the stage in all its wholly holey glory. Each set list is a skeleton with the same skull, arms, legs and ribcage, with newer skin and organs thrown on for the diehards who have heard "Always On My Mind" live since their teens (or even younger). It's his long shadow and the lineage he comes from that should inspire reverence. There are less than a dozen living and breathing classic country icons ambling the Earth, and he is one of them. When you are in the same room as his voice, you are breathing in history with each note. So imagine Aftermath's surprise when the Arena crowd would not sit down, shut up or refrain from walking up to the stage to take pictures or realize that Nelson will not sign your 11X14 print of him while he was singing. This didn't cease for the two hours the man and his legendarily reliable band went through nearly 30 songs.
If you have never seen a show at the Arena Theatre, the venue is set in the round, with a revolving stage surrounded by various sections, each bisected by a row to walk through. What ended up happening was people from the farther seats would quite literally walk to the stage and flash their digital cameras at the band for two hours. When the security for the venue would tell them to sit down, they would loudly protest that they had every right to walk where they pleased, even to the point where they would get nearly physical. One fight even broke out to the right of Aftermath's seats over a man spilling his beer on another's wife while he was trying to take a grainy and unfocused picture of the man who wrote "Night Life." As has come to be an epidemic at most country shows here in Houston, it seems that most attendees are only in attendance to either network, talk about their deer lease antics or drink expensive beer and break in their $1,000 cowboy boots ahead of all the big VIP barbecues and exclusive wine-tastings coming up during the Rodeo. Aftermath saw Hayes Carll a couple weeks back at Warehouse Live, and left nearly halfway through due to the Facebook photo shoots and beer spillage going on. Aftermath Senior went to cover Robert Earl Keen not long ago, and swam through a sea of maroon dandies who paid $60 to suck face and holler woo-hoo at a song they thought they knew. This all begs the question as to whether most people go to a concert or show to commune with the artist and their music, or are they there to have a shared experience with strangers with the musician becoming merely a moving warbling warming glow in the center of the room. Set List
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Whiskey River Still Is Still Moving To Me Beer For My Horses Shoeshine Man Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy Night Life Me and Paul If You've Got The Money I've Got The Time Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys Blues Eyes Crying In the Rain On the Road Again Always On My Mind Good Hearted Woman Nobody's Fault But Mine I'll Fly Away Hank Williams Medley
You Asked Me To (Billy Joe Shaver) Milk Cow Blues One Day At a Time Bloody Mary Morning Yesterday's Wine I Gotta Get Drunk I Saw the Light Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down (Louvin Brothers) Georgia On My Mind Shotgun Willie Man With the Blues Hello Walls Whiskey River