Last Night: Willie Nelson At Verizon Wireless Theater

Willie apr29 a.JPG
Photos by Mark Britain
Willie Nelson & Family
Verizon Wireless Theater
April 28, 2011

See Willie Nelson's extended Houston family in our slideshow.

There are few times you don't want the Rolling Stones in your head. A very few. But on your way to a Willie Nelson show trying to fight off the insinuating strains of "The Last Time" is one of them.

Not to be morbid, but the Red Headed Stranger is getting up there. It could be the last time. He looked stiff and, well, aged walking onstage at Verizon at 9 p.m. sharp Thursday night. He ought to; he turns 78 on Saturday. "Little sister" Bobbie had to be escorted to her grand piano.

Then Willie starts to play, and a different realization sets in: The man is eternal. Ain't it funny how time slips away.

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It really does, too. When Nelson and his band - besides Bobbie, just bassist Bee Spears, drummers Paul and Billy English and Mickey Raphael on harmonica Thursday - get locked in, most often on a ballad like "Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground" or "Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain," the clock freezes and there's nothing except those notes ducking and diving around one another, searching for the meaning the singer is denied in the words. Beautiful.

On the faster songs, say "Good Hearted Woman" or "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time," it becomes clear what a unique guitarist Nelson is. It's almost expressionist the way he scratches and stabs at his instrument - trusty acoustic Trigger until switching to a pearl Fender electric on Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" - as he plays above, below, ahead of and behind the beat laid down by the Swiss-timed Spears and English.

The carpal tunnel he mentioned before new single "Superman" (a duet with Snoop Dogg on record) must not have been bothering him too much. The way he negotiated the tricky thickets of "Bloody Mary Morning" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine," it couldn't have.

Aftermath's main (and admittedly minor) knocks on Nelson the past few times we've seen him have been that he plays the exact same set every time, and sometimes the songs come and go so fast it can be hard to soak them in. They don't call him Shotgun Willie for nothing.

Neither was really true Thursday. Gone were anything by his old pals Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard - maybe he's mad at them right now - and, equally surprisingly, Bob Wills. He might have shelved that after the whole Asleep at the WheelWillie and the Wheel cycle.

In their place were several country-blues numbers ("Rainy Day Blues," "Shoeshine Man") that sounded vintage but not fusty, "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" - which drew a laugh when Nelson blew a lyric near the end - and one of those songs that comes along at exactly the right moment you need to hear it, this time Billy Joe Shaver's "You Asked Me To." The title track/theme to 1973's Phases and Stages was another deep cut that cut especially deep.


Location Info

Venue

Map

Bayou Music Center

520 Texas Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Music

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11 comments
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Bess
Bess

I was having a great time, and Willie was awesome, until.........

When the concert was cancelled due to "Snow" Feb 4th. I decided to use this as an opportunity to buy tickets for my father and father-in-law. Both are jeapordized by health issues. It has been an up and down road for both. In the end, my dad made it. My father-in-law is burdened by cancer treatment medication difficulties, so my Mom was my Dad's date, which, in the end, worked out really well. I gave them My Isle seats.........I sat center row B Section 204 and I want to appologize to the innocent people on Row A who I landed on when the couple on Row B would not let me pass. It is not really their fault, due to NO DAMN ROOM TO PUT YOU FEET UNLESS YOU STAND UP! So thanks to those that did, and to those two that did not, I want you to know that my emergency clinic bill was $250, and I am wearing a bandage around my head! I have decided to make it a bandana cover and braid my hair like Willie past. I have a bad headache, gross things are oozing out, bruises down my legs, a sprained thumb, pain on my chest,and I probably won't be able to think clearly for quit some time. Again, I am so sorry for all those who were inconvienced by my Down Fall. I also want to thank those who helped me, especially the woman who found my glasses and shoes. The concert was, as I said, Awesome! Until then, for those of us in that section. I also want to thank the guy who did "triage" for what it was worth. The room could use a sink, paper towels and a mirror. That's just me!

Sodolak, Barbara
Sodolak, Barbara

Never has been, never will be another Willie. He proved that last night. Great pictures, as promised last night Mark. Thanks

hotrocksband
hotrocksband

Sounds like Willie's still got it!

firefly58
firefly58

Let's be honest. Willie had it, but it is quickly slipping away. He needs to stop so we can remember him as great. He didn't really sing his songs last night, just talked them through, and what is described as "impressionistic" guitar playing was really that he was off a lot of the time.The rest of the band kept it together. I wanted to be happy, but it made me sad. But it is true that there will never be another Willie.

rocksoffsr
rocksoffsr

This I stand by. I was more impressed with Willie's guitar last night than any other time I've seen him.

Jb
Jb

I completely agree. His guitar playing was terrific.

Classic Rock Bob
Classic Rock Bob

Was Paul English's brother not on percussion like he normally is? That sort of looks like him in the lower right hand corner in the top picture. And you're right - Paul hasn't played with actual sticks in a long, long time!

rocksoffsr
rocksoffsr

It was just the five of them. Willie's daughter Amy came out to sing on "I'll Fly Away," and sounded good once her microphone started working. No Billy on percussion, and no other guitarists - figure Willie's son Lukas is probably out with his band, and not sure if Jody Payne is still in the Family or not. I'm assuming he is, so I hope he's OK.

JB
JB

Paul only really played drums on "Me and Paul." Billy provided the percussion for 90% of the show.

Paul escorted Bobbie on and off the stage as well.

rocksoffsr
rocksoffsr

I suppose that would make sense considering Paul's recent stroke. I just don't remember seeing anyone switch out on drums and do remember Willie introducing Paul. But it wouldn't be the first time I missed something, either.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

Love that he cut his hair but is trying to grow it out now. Look at those teeeeeny braids.

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