Willie Nelson: American Legend
January 7, 2011
San Francisco, CA
As mentioned previously on MV&R, Willie Nelson is a national treasure- a 76 year old rebel, an irrepressible, incorrigible rascal, kind of like Huckleberry Finn if he had made it to senior citizen status. If you haven't had the pleasure of watching this piece of Americana perform, just do it. Willie makes you feel good about being American. His music is all about the good part of America, the open spaces, the freedom to be an individual, the love of a good time, the friendly acceptance of all-comers. Willie is the antithesis of the uptight, moralizing, xenophobic part of the US that has been dominating the national discourse during the last decade. His honky-tonk country songs and warm voice are the embodiment of Mark Twain's America populated by fun-loving characters.
When I arrived at the Fillmore on Monday night, the last thing that I wanted was an opening band. Bring on Willie! So, of course, Promise of The Real came on stage moments after I arrived. I should have anticipated as much since Promise of the Real is an eclectic looking blues band starring Willie's son as a Texas slacker doing his best hyperkinetic Stevie Ray Vaughn impersonation. To complete the Nelson-evening, Micah Nelson, another Willie offspring, was painting on stage during their set. Of course, I was trying not to be annoyed, I had a beer to drink and I just had to wait out this little bit of nepotism until Willie wandered out of his smoky bus. But, as Promise of the Real continued, I was grudgingly impressed and they did play an inspired version of Bob Dylan's “Meet Me in the Morning.” (link is actual video from the Fillmore) So, all is forgiven.
Finally, Willie came out accompanied by his band and (again) his Texas slacker son on guitar. Willie has been opening his concerts with 'Whiskey River' for many years and I think his enthusiasm for the song is waning, it was a rather perfunctory opening number. But, once he got rolling, the concert was just what I needed. Willie performed great versions of Beer for My Horses, Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys, Georgia on My Mind, Good Hearted Woman, Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground. Watching Willie perform helps to provide some perspective. He is a survivor and his songs reassure that after all the trials and tribulations of this thing called life, a good glass of whiskey can make it all OK.