God bless Willie Nelson. Anyone who can put as much gusto and authenticity as he does into anything deserves nothing but praise. Nelson is the patron saint of quality country music and good times, and has never been known to skimp on either. Monday night at Smart Financial Centre was no exception.
Throughout the evening, Nelson navigated his familiar fretboard on Trigger with an ease that can only come after so many years together. Though he has been come to be known for changing up his traditional solos for more jazzy, Django Reinhart-inspired incarnations, Nelson continues to produce his unmistakable sound, equally made up of the man and his acoustic guitar.
Nelson has no shortage of material either written by him or songs impossible to dissociate from the man himself. He never strays from opening with his old friend Johnny Bush’s. “Whiskey River,” pairing the opening chords with the release of the biggest Texas flag outside of highway adjacent car dealerships.
Throughout Nelson’s show, he managed to pay homage to old friends and fellow music legends, dedicating a portion of his set list to Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Billy Joe Shaver and the heartbroken king of Country himself, Hank Williams.
Nelson and his band seemed to be communicating on a higher plane, through effortless glances and nods. The band has been with him for an impressive amount of time; with his sister Bobbie Nelson always behind her grand piano and Mickey Raphael's harmonica serving as the back up singer to Nelson's vocals.
Nelson spends most of his time on tour and his set lists haven’t varied much in the past, despite releasing new material every year. He managed to balance out tried and true sing alongs like “Beer For My Horses” with newer, instant classics, like “It’s All Going to Pot”; both songs with lyrics relevant to the times we live in.
He only played one song from this year's release, Ride Me Back Home, the tongue-in-cheek cover, “Hard to Be Humble.” Nelson winked to the crowd as he sang “Something to do with the way that I fill out my skin tight jeans.”
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A man of few words onstage, Nelson went from hit to hit, always encouraging audience participation. Nelson took everyone to church with his closing number, the medley “Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away”.
Still Is Still Moving to Me
Beer For My Horses
Good Hearted Woman
Down Yonder (Bobbie Nelson Instrumental)
If You’ve Got the Money
Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground
On the Road Again
Always on My Mind
Jambalaya (On the Bayou)
Hey, Good Lookin’
It’s All Going to Pot
Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
Georgia On a Fast Train
It’s Hard to Be Humble
Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away