Guitar riffing, bandana wearing and the country twanging — you did it again.
Performing in front of a nearly sold out crowd at the Peppermill casino Saturday night, Nelson, perhaps one of the greatest country/rock innovators of all time, showcased several decades worth of timeless hits, new favorites and proved that some men over 70 still got it.
Dressed in his usual comfortable broken in blue jeans, sneakers and of course hair worn long, cascading down his back, Nelson and his wry voice greeted the crowd humbly, his laid back, country demeanor putting everyone at immediate ease. A huge lone star flag draped behind him as the stage backdrop, affirming his strong Texas roots.
And out came that guitar.
While it’s easy to argue that Nelson has aged gracefully, his Martin N-20 “Trigger,” named after Roy Roger’s horse, wears its age on its sleeve. While Nelson played such favorites as “Always on My Mind” and “On the Road Again,” zoomed in camera shots displayed on large screens around the room, caught glimpses of the six string, signatures, scratches, a large gaping hole and all.
Nelson clearly wouldn’t have it any other way either, as he didn’t switch guitars often, the sound unbeatable and proof of his success. Extended breakdowns during songs like “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” allowed Nelson to shine his guitar picking skills, his technical style crisp, with room for bluesy undertones.
Playing alongside Nelson were several members of his longtime band, including his younger sister Bobbie Nelson, or as Willie affectionately called “little sister.” Bobbie and her unmistakable honky tonk, saloon type playing energy, brought a fun playful side to the heavy guitar line up.
Also playing was harmonica player Mickey Raphael, whose swanky, blues influenced playing brought some nice added flavor in between Nelson’s riffs, reminiscent of a Bob Dylan sound.
But perhaps as diverse as the talent on stage, Saturday night’s crowd was a grab bag of cowboy hats, leather jackets, punk rockers, and country die-hards young and old, all doing the same thing — having fun and singing along.
Across the aisle, one couple roughly in their 50s, was dancing despite the generally seated crowd, with the husband occasionally stepping out into the walkway grabbing his wife’s hand to spin and dip her, especially when “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” came on.
Before long, most everyone was at least tapping their feet and singing along to the music as, in the true spirit of Willie Nelson, the undeniable smell of marijuana drifted slowly overhead. One thing is for sure, when Willie puts on a concert, he puts on a concert.
Crowd pleasers like Nelson’s rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Me And Bobby McGee,” as well as a few new ones like “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore” where Nelson sings an unforgettable line “Did you hear the one about the dirty whore?/oh I forgot, you don’t think I’m funny anymore” left the audience with a smile on their face and maybe even an uncanny desire to wear a bandana.
Bravo, Willie. Bravo.