There are American music icons, and then there is Willie Nelson. A hall of fame singer and songwriter who has published more than 2,500 songs, earned several Grammys and acted in many films — most recently playing Uncle Jesse in the remake of the '70s TV hit “The Dukes of Hazzard” — the 72-year-old Nelson practically bleeds red, white and blue, and the singer/songwriter delivered a performance at the sold-out Dodge Theatre Friday night that was as American as hot dogs and apple pie.
The concert, scheduled for 8 p.m., started late, and when a roadie came out at 8:20 to introduce the living legend, the anticipation was palpable. But the crowd, who had risen to their feet after the lengthy intro, was left waiting for another 10 minutes.
Many in the the audience began sitting back down in their seats — when a fellow in the crowd was heard to yell, “Put down the joint, Willie,” the audience, aware of Nelson's legendary marijuana jones, erupted in laughter — before Nelson finally appeared with his five-piece band and launched into his tried-and-true opening number, “Whiskey River.”
Dressed casually in jeans, sneakers and a black T-shirt , his freshly twisted gray-and-red braids snaking out beneath a straw cowboy hat, Nelson handled his trademark battered and bruised nylon-string Martin guitar, nicknamed “Trigger,” with precision as his backing band laid down a groove above Nelson's instantly recognizable nasal vocal twang.
For a songwriter who has written some of American music's most enduring classics, Nelson surprisingly delivered a set heavy on cover songs by some of his fellow legends, treating the crowd to a Kris Kristofferson medley of “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and “Me and Bobby McGee,” a brilliant take on Merle Haggard's “Working Man's Blues,” Lefty Frizzell's “If You've Got the Money, I've Got The Time”
and the Carter Family's “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”
But the biggest crowd response was saved for Nelson's own tunes, such as “Crazy,” which was made famous by the late, great Patsy Cline, “Always On My Mind,” the exquisite ”Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” and perhaps Nelson’s signature tune, ”On the Road Again.” The eclectic audience, a mixture of senior citizens, hippies, bikers, punk rockers, parents with kids in tow and young hipsters, roared their approval at Nelson's every move, even roaring the chorus of Nelson's latest country hit, the Toby Keith duet “Beer For My Horses.”
Nelson, one of the last great American music icons, was spry and energetic throughout his nearly two-hour set, and by the time the show ended with the recently penned and hilarious “I Ain't Superman,” it was clear that Nelson has more classics left in his pen.
"Still is Still Moving To Me"
"Beer For My Horses"
"Funny How Time Slips Away"
"Workin' Man's Blues"
"Help Me Make it Through the Night"
"Me and Bobby McGee"
"Me and Paul"
"If You Got the Money, I Got the Time"
"Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain"
"Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys"
"Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground"
"On the Road Again"
"Always On My Mind"
"Will the Circle Be Unbroken"
"The Harder They Fall"
"Good Hearted Woman"
"Jambalaya/Hey Good Lookin'/Move it on Over"
"Pancho and Lefty"
"City of New Orleans"
"To All the Girls I've Loved Before"
"Whiskey River (Reprise)"
"I Ain't Superman"