Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Willie nelson at the embassy

Last night we took in a Willie Nelson concert at the beautiful Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne. Wow, what a show! Willie is simply sensational. It's hard to believe he will be 77 next month. He played straight through for a solid hour and a half plus, never taking a break, never setting Trigger (his guitar) down, and smiling almost the entire time. This is what legends are made of.

I actually got the tickets for Jane's birthday present this year. I hope she enjoyed it half as much as I did. I could have kicked myself the day I bought tickets though. I was planning to buy them the minute they went on sale, but all of a sudden I thought it was a day Jane was going to be gone, so I didn't buy them. It wasn't until later in the afternoon that I realized she would, indeed, be here. We still had great seats though: Section F, row D, seats 12 & 13. That put us in the 4th row of the balcony, dead center stage, on the aisle. Perfect.

Willie is one of those people whose music I have always really liked, but for some reason I've never owned any of it. Sometimes I think I like him as much for his persona though. At any rate, he did not disappoint, and, probably even surprised me some with his guitar playing. He put on a whale of a show. There was no opening act, no breaks, no encore, and not a lot of chit-chat. Just music. That's the way it ought to be done. The most he ever said between songs was a couple of "howdy's" and when he told about having to have carpel tunnel surgery - which led into a song he wrote. I'm sure he could have told some good stories, but that's the thing with Willie... his songs tell the stories of his life, so there's no need to say anything more.

I think what I like best about him is his total lack of pretense. When Jane and I were driving past the theatre we saw his tour buses parked out back and commented that it looked like Willie standing there talking with some folks. We were half joking, but when he took the stage it looked just like the guy we saw. He was dressed in a black t-shirt, black jeans, and tennis shoes. He started out in a hat, but soon switched to his trademark headband. I think he went through 3 or 4 of them - occasionally throwing them into the audience to appreciative fans. And I like how he ended his show. He got done, put his guitar down, and while the 5-piece band finished out the song he walked along the front and sides of the stage and shook hands with people. Very cool. It was especially sweet when he came to the young blond girl who stood for many of his songs in the front row - when he shook her hand he also patted her on the head. Very grandfatherly, I thought.

It was just nice to see a performer who was so completely at ease with himself. He wasn't out to impress anyone, but just trying to help people have a good time. He seemed to even enjoy playing his old favorites for us. Shoot, he didn't even play all his own songs. He is a true entertainer; and in such a humble way. And as one of my friends said afterward, "I've never seen anybody who can mix depravity and God so smoothly..." It was a joy to watch and hear.

Maybe the thing that amazes me most about people like this is the ability to do this day in and day out for such a long, long time. I mean, for somebody to play the same songs night after night is like the assembly line worker who screws parts together all night long; day after day; all their lives. But imagine having everyone watching every little move you make, and expecting you to entertain them while you do it! Perhaps the only thing more difficult is plying your trade this long and still coming up with new material. That's what makes people like Willie and Dylan so great. It has nothing to do with playing technically precise, or having pure voices... It's a combination of writing astounding lyrics, catchy melodies, connecting with people's souls, and sticking with it when everyone else gives up.

Well, I could go on for hours but I should probably wrap this up. I would really like to get some of Willie's music now. The only problem is... how do you decide what to get. So much good material over the years. At any rate, it was a beautiful night, with my beautiful bride, and left me with a really good feeling. It doesn't get much better than that. Thanks Willie!

Peace out, folks; and in.


JAH said...

Absolutely on everything!

Whisky Prajer said...

Willie's guitar has always impressed me -- I mean, not just his playing of it (he manages to throw in a few surprises no matter how old the tune is) but the actual vehicle. That sucker looks like it's held together with duct tape, but will almost certainly outlive the owner. Here's hoping it has a spot reserved in the Smithsonian.