Say what you will about Willie Nelson; outlaw, pot smoker, tax evader, the list could go on, but one thing you can’t say is that he doesn’t entertain. He is nothing if not a constant strong force in country music.
The sound may have changed some and the arrangements are different, but Nelson can still put on one heck of a show. If you are going to a Willie concert hoping to hear what you do on his albums, think again.
SpiritBank has shifted away from having musical acts recently, for reasons I don’t know, I can only speculate that it has been due to the issues they have had with the property owners or the complaints that have gotten from surrounding neighbors for noise levels. It looks like those issues may be in the process of resolution, as there appears to be a pretty healthy amount of concerts and shows on the slate for coming months. All this writer can say is, "Finally, maybe the event center will be utilized like it should be." It is no BOK Center, but it is a very decent venue and provides for a very intimate show.
That intimacy was on display Friday night, with Willie Nelson and Family putting on a different but still entertaining show. First up was Nelson’s son, Lukas opening the evening and lighting up the stage with his blend of blues and country. The kid can flat play the guitar and showcased several different playing styles, from over his head, to an underneath style, to playing with his teeth, which led him to break a string, switch guitars and continue on with the same song. Extremely talented and has the linage to make him a next generation star.
Next up was, Kevin Fowler, who has seen some moderate success on local KVOO radio. He has a very up-tempo and party groove style of set that will have you laughing along with several of his songs and looking for your next beer. "Don’t Touch My Willie," a song about his evening with a lovely young lady that turns sour when she starts to rifle through his records and comes across his Willie Nelson albums. The humorous song "Pound Sign (#?*!)," which tells of how we all have a bad day from time to time and that instead of cursing he says today he feels like #?*! it will have you laughing and nodding your head in agreement.
His set was very well accepted and created a buzz in the arena that set the stage for the living legend to take the show to another level. Depending on who you ask that level may not have been reached. My job is to tell you my thoughts and provide an accurate review of what I saw.
In that vain, what I can say is, "Willie was being Willie." In a career reaching over 6 decades and some 200 albums, he has earned the right to do what he wants to do with his music. The man is 77 years old and at this point he is able to take some liberties as he chooses.
As mentioned before, if you are expecting to hear what you do on his albums, you may be disappointed. His songs and his style are all his own. There were times that he would start into songs that took you a little while to realize you did in fact know the song. "Beer for My Horses," for example. His smash collaboration with Toby Keith, was changed so much that it took until the second verse to know what song he was doing. Others that are standard Nelson fair grabbed you a little quicker "Crazy" began out of a short jam session of sorts.
He does a great job of connecting with his audience and takes the time to throw souvenirs out to the eager crowd. First by throwing his hat out into the seats, then putting on bandanna after bandanna and throwing them into the front row. Fans were thrilled and were able to take a piece of an icon home with them.
Nelson’s set list is rather extensive and plays to many different kinds of musical tastes. Taking songs from some of his peers catalog. He did tunes by Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings and even allowed a young man to come out of the audience and rip through a blues song that had the youngster showing off some very good vocals and I am sure what will be a story of sharing the stage with Willie Nelson that will be passed on for years to come.
The concert overall was a great night of looking into the past of country and western music, although not exactly what you would expect it did deliver very well.