bcjennyo‘s wish is my command, so here’s the debrief on tonight’s show. The evening really began when, over a burrito dinner and a margarita at a joint across the street from the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, I realized that I was wearing my bright pink Go-Go’s “Our Lips Are Sealed” t-shirt (thank you, Target). I said to Z, “I can’t wear this t-shirt to a Willie Nelson show. People will think I’m lost.” But I didn’t have much choice, so I decided I would just roll with it and shout requests for such hits as “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels.”1
You can’t make up someone like Willie Nelson. After the unfortunate opening act (more on that below, maybe), as we sat around waiting for the real show to begin, a rotund man in shorts came onstage to deliver a lecture on Mr. Nelson’s myriad accomplishments.2 He informed us, for example, that Willie has “six new albums out,” each of which has received some sort of rave review from “the Rolling Stones Magazine,” one of which is a reggae album, and the sixth of which is actually three old albums, so I guess he actually has eight new albums out, except they aren’t all new. In his spare time, Willie has authored three books, including The Tao of Willie, which I imagine is what The Tao of Pooh would be if Pooh smoked a lot of weed.
This tour, I should point out, is technically the Willie Nelson & Family tour, because Willie has personally sired about half of his band. Most of them play superfluous percussion instruments, but one plucky young chap named Lukas (who is to blame, I believe, for the opening act, a feeble roots-lite jam band from Hawaii who call themselves, in total earnestness, Harmonic Tribe) plays electric guitar and sings back-up vocals. At one point he wowed the crowd with what Z aptly described as a “very Oedipal guitar solo.” I found Lukas a little high school Battle of the Bands for my taste, but I admit it was cute when he and Willie played duelling guitars at the end.
Willie himself rocks. He sings like a jazz vocalist, making strange melodies sound beguilingly easy. He kicks a whole world of ass on a beat-up acoustic guitar. I spent the first third of the show wishing everyone except Willie and his little sister Bobbie (on piano) would shut up and go away so I could focus on the actual music. Eventually the band came together and I could stop cursing the Nelson spawn and just listen. It was a gorgeous set, a medley of standards and classics and covers and gospel and blessedly free of any trace of the recent reggae experiment.3
Z, I should mention, is a good date for a show like this. He is very good at explaining things like why Willie Nelson’s “perverse approach to melody” makes him such a surprisingly awesome guitar soloist, and at observing things like how “each new song [performed by Harmonic Tribe] achieves a new level of suck.” Plus he bought the tickets. I’d go out with him again.
1I did not actually do this.
2I am not convinced this man was actually affiliated with the show in any official capacity.
3This is not to say, however, that I have entirely given up the reggae album for lost. Part of me thinks it may be oddly brilliant. I’ll give it a listen soon and report back.