Sunday, May 15, 2005

What has 200 records, six Grammys, and plays Uncle Jessie on "The Dukes of Hazard"?

It's Willie Nelson, and he played this evening at the Beaumont Civic Center. Actually, it was billed as "Willie Nelson and Family," giving due credit to the band.

I'd guess that the Beaumont Civic Center's auditorium is about twice the size of a good size high school gym. Which much bigger than I like. But since my seats were section 1, row 9, seats 11 and 12, I was willing to put up with the oversize room. The seats were great, except for one problem. After the fifth row, the auditorium was divided into three sections (numbered 1, 2 & 3). Section 1 was on the left Hand side (facing the stage), and seat 12 was on the aisle on the right hand side (nearest the center). The problem is that there was an endless parade of amateur photographers obstructing what would otherwise have been a great view. The guy in front of me seemed really annoyed. I wish people would steal their concert photos off a professional's blog. They'd get better pictures and be considerably less annoying. I really hate camera phones.

But back to Willie-- I've never been a big country music fan. Or a Willie Nelson fan for that matter. I don't have any of his records, and I knew maybe ten percent of the songs he played. But he never lost my attention for a minute, which is a rare accomplishment. I remember seeing The Eagles, ZZ Top, Queen, and other big name acts, and no matter how much I liked their music, at some point I'd find my self wondering when its going to be over. The man (or the man with the band, anyway) is a phenomenal performer. He played old stuff, new stuff, stuff I'd heard many times before, stuff I'd heard snippets of on Time Life music commercials, and stuff I'd never heard at all. And it was all good.

Did I mention that Willie had a seemingly endless supply of hats? He'd play a few songs, toss his hat into the crowd, and pull another out of a box. He'd wear that for a few songs, toss it out into the crowd, and get a new one.

After playing for about an hour, he did a sort of a preemptive encore. Rather than leave the stage and demand applause in exchange for additional songs, he said "I've got time for a few more songs, how about you?," or words to that effect. And then he played for another half hour. And it was even better.

And then it was over. The band played while Willie signed whatever people brought to the stage-- T-shirts, tour posters, baseball caps, etc.

About three quarters of the crowd left.

Then he quit signing stuff, and started playing "Amazing Grace." And you could tell he meant it. Brought a tear to my eye, anyway. And after that, a rousing version of "I Saw the Light." Real camp meeting stuff, only with a sincerity that made it okay.

Then he signed some more stuff for about another ten minutes.

And then it was over for real.

Best concert I've ever been to. Or pretty darn close, anyway.

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Blogger Laurie said...

Coming from someone who's seen a bazillion concerts, that's high praise indeed. I'm glad you had fun but I'm jealous as hell.

Sunday, May 15, 2005 11:30:00 PM  

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