Goldstar strikes again! I received an email about three days ago offering tickets to see Willie Nelson & Family at the Greek with Ryan Bingham & Dead Horses as the opening act. Hydra and I looked at tickets when they first went on sale, but they were too pricey. These were our seats for $37.50 each, including all processing fees– half price! The picture doesn’t quite do them justice. We were pleased.
As anyone who has been within earshot of me in the past year or so will know, I loved the film Crazy Heart and its soundtrack. Ryan Bingham won a best song Oscar for his “The Weary Kind,” which was used in the film. He also cowrote and/or performed several other songs on the soundtrack. I was hoping he’d do a couple of those, but he only did “The Weary Kind,” and did it second to last in his set.
I am looking forward to hearing some of the songs from his new CD on a decent stereo. I have to say that the sound was cranked so loud for his rock and rollish set that the personalities of the various songs were drowned out.
Speaking of personality, one of the reasons I go to concerts is to see something of the personality of the performers. Mostly we saw the top of Bingham’s hat as he bent over his guitar. The bass player strangely spent most of the evening playing with his back to the audience. Eh?
A year ago the movie hadn’t come out, so I expect things have been moving pretty fast for them. I hope they get the gaps between songs whittled down a little and relax.
During the break while Willie Nelson & Family set up, we took a look around. When the show isn’t sold out, The Greek covers the empty seats with camouflage netting and wheels trees into the aisles. I was really surprised to see so many empty seats. I mean, Willie Nelson’s an icon! He wrote some amazing songs!
Willie was in fine form. He merged some of his best known songs into medleys, to give us a taste. He did all of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” which is a terrific harmony song. His style is like country-jazz. He plays around with the basic form of songs, not singing the melody the way he wrote it, sliding the phrases around in the bar. During a song he invited us all to sing along with, I realized he was singing harmony and letting the audience do the lead.
It might be disconcerting if you haven’t heard him do it this way. He could do the songs the way he first recorded them, but after 20-40 years, what would be the fun in that for him?
It was great to see Willie onstage with his sons. Rightly proud poppa. That’s Lukas taking an amazing guitar break. Another son, Micah provided percussion backup and sits in on drums in this set. Willie’s sister Bobbie played a mean piano and took some breaks herself.
That’s the amazing harmonica player Mickey Raphael at the right of the shot. His breaks and wailing contributions to both bands were nothing short of amazing and moving. We had the privilege of seeing him play with Randy Travis last year at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center. Guys like him add so much depth to a show.
Willie shook hands and signed autographs with the folks down front while the band vamped toward the end of the show. He gave us a fun evening of songs we arrived hoping to hear sprinkled with some I didn’t know. There were a couple of funny ones we’d like to learn, “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore,” and another one I can’t recall right now.
I liked that there wasn’t a lot of folderol about taking multiple encores. He dragged Trigger (his guitar) around in a sort of parody of someone leaving the stage in hopes of being begged for an encore, then came back and finished up with one more song.
It was a really good evening. The weather couldn’t have been better for an outdoor venue, and the moon was just less than full. I didn’t have quite the transcendent feeling upon leaving that I had after Paul McCartney or Randy Travis, but then I’ve been a bigger fan of those guys for longer. (It could also have something to do with the fact that I got up this morning at 3:45 and managed to get to the train station just in time make an unsuccessful sprint for the 4:18. Had to wait for the 5:23. Sigh.)
It’s great to be able to see some of the major performers of our lifetime in the past few years. As Hydra points out, we saw the two surviving members of The Beatles and of The Highwaymen in the past couple of seasons.