Willie Nelson, Comerica Theatre, 3/12/12
Willie Nelson and Family
Maria Vassett Willie Nelson
Monday, March 12
It was a quarter after eight when the Red-Headed Stranger took the stage at Comerica Theatre last night. He hadn't even played a note, but he crowd of retirees stood in applause beside younger admirers of the man who is not so red-headed these days, and was certainly no stranger to the cheering audience. The younger folk (who helped older patrons down the stairs to their seats) shouted encouragement throughout the night, yelling things like, "Hell Yeah Willie," and, "Give it to 'em Willie!" Willie gave it to everybody, young and old.
Wasted no time grabbing 'Trigger,' his legendary and battered Martin guitar, decked out in his expected black T-shirt, black jeans, bandana, and side-braided ponytails, he gave a quick wave to the crowd and he began singing the familiar lyrics to his classic, "Whiskey River," from his album, Shotgun Willie (1973). Willie was backed by a six-piece band, including his very talented son Lukas on guitar, and his sister, Bobbi on piano. The crowd sang the words somberly and clapped along as Willie took some time to find the rhythm with the somewhat flawed acoustics set up for him last night. As the night progressed, he found the microphone sweet-spot, and his voice sounded much more like the Willie that I have heard so many times from the jukeboxes I've poured dollars into over the years.
Willie got right to it, addressing the crowd with over thirty songs from his ancient and more recent past. He barely paused between songs, swinging effortlessly from "Still is Still Moving to Me" to "Beer for My Horses." The crowd behind me was singing louder than Willie during the choruses, and cheered as the family band jammed solos.
Maria Vassett Willie Nelson
He was ever the showman, too, cycling through bandanas -- which female members of the audience clamored for. He got the first laughs as he flawlessly sang, "Me and Paul," chronicling his long time friendship and road career with band mate Paul English.
The highlight of the show, for me, was the tenth song of the set, when Willie announced to the crowd that his son, Lukas, was going to take the lead and play, "Flooding Down in Texas." Originally performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan, the rendition was unbelievable. Lukas has without a doubt has "the gene," ripping through the guitar solos I have only heard on SRV albums. Besides his gift of guitar, this kid can sing.
Willie wasted no time shifting into "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys," and the crowd got back into the sing-a-long mood as they did a call and response with the country icon. He tossed more bandanas to women reaching for them, and continued to please the crowd with every song they could possibly want to hear.
He slowed the crowd down with, "Angel Flyin' Too Close to the Ground," and "Always on My Mind." Once the scene was calm(er), he switched up the tempo with another jam session, and proved to the crowd that he can still own a guitar solo, and reminded me, "Oh yeah, that's why his son is so damn good." His set continued with the crowd-favorite, "Georgia on My Mind," and Waylon Jennings' "Good Hearted Woman." The crowd recognized the famous song by the one-time band mate (in The Highwaymen), and sang along with Willie.