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Willie Nelson, Spry As Ever, Delights A Sold-Out Smart Financial Centre

Willie Nelson showed that he's still got it.EXPAND
Willie Nelson showed that he's still got it.
Photo by Matthew Keever
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Willie Nelson
Smart Financial Centre
November 14, 2017

Assuming I make it to age 84, I pray I’ll still have the dexterity to shave. Beyond that, I hope to have the wherewithal to remember my name and address. And if I’m able to tie my own shoes, I’ll consider it a bonus.

But at that very age, one of country music’s most beloved icons – the one and only Willie Nelson – continues to release music and tour relentlessly, serving as a reminder to us all that the ride ain’t over till it’s over.

Nelson and his band – the Family – visited Houston’s newest venue Tuesday night, packing Smart Financial Centre to the gills with people of all ages and backgrounds. The only thing anyone seemed to have in common was a shared appreciation for the American singer-songwriter, and perhaps a love for beer.

Early in his performance, the redheaded stranger displayed a few imperfections that have come with age. He began his set with “Whiskey River” – which has become a staple of Nelson’s live performances despite originally being sung by Houston’s own Johnny Bush – but his fingers just couldn’t find the right chords for much of the song.

He fiddled with his earpiece and tuned his guitar a bit before motioning to the soundboard to turn his stage monitor up. All the while, the Family kept the track from going off the rails and fans belted out the lyrics in solidarity with the man of the hour.

The man of the hour.EXPAND
The man of the hour.
Photo by Matthew Keever

By the third song – a solo rendition of his 2002 duet with Toby Keith, “Beer For My Horses” – Nelson hit his stride. His microphone and guitar were adjusted to his liking, and his fingers found their step. He didn’t miss another chord for the rest of the night.

Nelson’s repertoire Tuesday night paired longtime favorites such as “On The Road Again” and “Always On My Mind” with newer tracks liked “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die,” giving longtime and new fans alike a chance to sing along.

He spent just over an hour onstage, tossing bandanas into the crowd in between every few songs and smiling broadly. In between dedications to deceased pals Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, Nelson sang lightheartedly about rumors of his own demise on “Still Not Dead.”

There’s nothing left for Nelson to prove. His status as an elder statesman in the music community has been intact for years, but each performance lends his legend even more credibility.

Tuesday night was another notch in the Nelson’s belt, another show among the thousands he has played over decades. For others, it was their 10th or 12th time seeing him in concert. But for some, it was their first time.

As memorable a first as any.

SET LIST
Whiskey River (Johnny Bush Cover)
Still Is Still Moving To Me
Beer For My Horses (Toby Keith cover)
Good Hearted Woman (Waylon Jennings cover)
Crazy (Patsy Cline cover)
Night Life
If You’ve Got The Money I’ve Got The Time (Lefty Frizzell cover)
It’s All Going To Pot
On The Road Again
Always On My Mind
Move It On Over
Georgia On My Mind
Fast Train To Georgia
Shoeshine Man (Tom Hall cover)
Mammas, Don’t’ Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground
Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die
Still Not Dead
Will The Circle Be Unbroken
I’ll Fly Away

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