Jan. 19, 2011
House of Blues, Anaheim
Willie Nelson is a living legend. Hailed as a country outlaw, Nelson made headlines late last year for being arrested in Texas for possession of marijuana. Seriously, who arrests Willie Nelson? He responded to the arrest by forming the Teapot Party. Unfettered by his brush with the long arm of the law, Nelson continues to tirelessly tour the country bringing along his sister and son, making things a family affair.
At the spry age of 77, Nelson gleefully smiled and waved to the sold-out crowd at the House of Blues in Anaheim. He gently picked up his battered Martin N-20 guitar named “Trigger” and strummed the opening chords of “Whiskey River,” which immediately ignited the fans. Nelson was in high spirits. He often pointed to the crowd while flashing his broad grin.
Nelson doesn't make time for small talk between songs. He immediately started in on the chords to the next tune. Tackling the song he recorded with Toby Keith, “Beer for My Horses,” Nelson leaned toward the crowd, spurring everyone to sing along. Most of Nelson's tunes fall into the two-to-three-minute range, and it was a rapidfire assault of hits.
“Shoeshine Man” and “Crazy” easily delighted the hardcore fans, with a majority of them singing along. Backed by his trusty family band, Nelson seemed to be having one heck of a time. The rollicking vibe of “On the Road Again” forced everyone to stomp and clap along. “Always On My Mind” was the highlight of the evening, as Nelson's croon was perfect. Admittedly, I also love the Pet Shop Boys' cover of the song.
”Bloody Mary Morning” had Nelson navigating all over his fretboard of “Trigger,” while his son Lukas filled in the other notes on guitar. The chances of Julio Iglesias emerging from the shadows to duet on “To All the Girls I've Loved Before” were slim, but Nelson did an expert job on vocals. “Georgia On My Mind” and “I Gotta Get Drunk” wound down his set, and he concluded his performance with the song “I Saw the Light.”
Lukas Nelson opened the evening with a spitfire set. He showed off his highly adept guitar skills and distinct singing voice. He definitely has a bright future ahead.
Personal Bias: I don't like country music, but I will see Willie Nelson any time he comes to town.
Crowd: A wide array of ages and lots of cowboy hats were spotted.
Overheard In the Crowd: “Can I get another beer?”
Random Notebook Dump: Willie Nelson had the best merchandise booth. It included Anaheim bandanas with the date on them.