I’m not a big fan of country music although I do like some songs by some country singers.
Iconic songs like Crazy as sung by Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson (who wrote it). Stand By Your Man by Tammy Wynette. Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry. Stretching the genre a bit, but also the version of I Will Always Love You, written by Dolly Parton and sung by Whitney Houston.
My wife Laura, though, is a huge fan especially of Willie Nelson.
And so it was that I was with Laura at Wembley Arena last Friday night to experience Willie Nelson live as he played the only London gig on his current Europe tour.
And what an experience. The place was packed with thousands of fans. This had to be the only non-classical concert I’ve been to where the average age of the audience seemed to be at least 50.
After Irish singer Sharon Shannon and her band warmed up the audience for an enjoyable hour or so, Willie came on and launched straight in to his music.
We were sitting in the main area about two-thirds the way back. The photo I’ve included here is zoomed so doesn’t quite give that impression (I’ve uploaded a few more photos to Flickr). Yet we had a great view and the audio was simply terrific from where we sat.
What amazed me the most about Willie Nelson was the vibrant energy and stamina from a man who is 73 years old. He played non stop for nearly two hours – and then came out again for a quick two-songs encore. Song after song belted out in his rich voice; how he remembers so many is equally amazing.
Having listened to Willie on Friday, I’d not categorize him as purely a country singer. A great deal of blues as well as rock and roll – both genres I like a lot – plus some gospel make up his song repertoire.
At one point, I recorded some video on my Nokia N73. About 45 seconds. It would have been longer but people in front of me started standing up so obscuring the view. Still, I think it will give you a taste of the atmosphere in Wembley on Friday night. Click the link below to watch and listen. I think you’ll be amazed at at the audio quality in particular.
So I enjoyed my Willie Nelson experience. Laura did, too, as she writes in her blog (in Spanish). In fact, I’d like to go and see him play live again.
Talking about stamina – we just had the pleasure of experiencing Chuck Berry here in Copenhagen – He still got the blues – and is 82, I think.
Having lived in Texas for a few years (where Willie is an Icon), I can say “Amen!” to your comments Neville. He is an amazingly talented performer & writer, & just a good person.
Love & Peace, Clarence
Clarence, he’s one heck of an icon, that’s all I can add. Other than to Karin – now that’s longevity!
I saw Willie live about 25 years ago, after falling in love during college with his song writing and performing skills. Even back then, he was starting to look a little craggy. But it sounds like his voice has remained remarkably vibrant. That’s unusual for a singer of his age; particularly one who (at least used to) party regularly.
I met Willie when I was working on the Hill in Washington, D.C. We were hosting some African American and Hispanic farmers to meet with legislators about some serious issues they were dealing with. Willie happened to be in town for a Farm Aid concert. He spent a day (much longer than we expected) to walk the halls of Congress with the farmers. At one point we were a bit behind schedule, but one of his assistants told me that the one thing Willie hates is being interrupted by staff when he is talking with a farmer. When I actually got to talk with him myself and pose for a photo (I was barely out of college at the time) I told him I was from Lubbock, Texas. His eyes lit up and he told me he used to perform at a particular joint there. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it had burned down since then.
Humility is too small a word for Mr. Willie Nelson.
That’s quite a an experience, Christie. Thanks for sharing.