Willie Nelson, Harrah’s, Lake Tahoe, NV- 2/15
We arrived at Harrah's early to gamble a little and meet some friends at the bar. After wasting our brains (and money) on the slots, we tried a bit of keno for good measure. None the richer, we met up with our pals and headed into the showroom to see a country music legend in action.
Needless to say, we were all very excited. In fact, Willie has long been one of my friend G's favorite performers. The death of Waylon was on our minds and she wondered hot it might affect him and went so far as to bring along brought along a red, white, and blue devil hat, which she crocheted for him, in hopes it would cheer him up.
Willie came out inspired, leading off with a blazing "Whiskey River". We could tell already that the crowd was a bit fuddy duddy, heavy on the casino vibe, and more into burping up the buffet than dancing, but the band was on fire all the same. A string of country and western gems followed, including the always endearing "Ain't It Funny", a hopped up "Good Hearted Woman", and the coolest combination of "Crazy" into "Nightlife" that these ears have ever heard. A few songs later, little sister Bobby busted out "Down Yonder" and G ran up to the stage to toss her hat to Willie. He picked it up and put it on his head, laughing.
Willie continued on undaunted, wearing the hat backwards with the tag around his eyes through an entire version of "Workinman Blues", sung nicely by longtime bandmate Jody Payne. A couple of cool Kristofferson covers followed, a high point of the show for me (I've always been a sucker for the Kristofferson stuff).
Shortly after "Me and Bobby McGee", I noticed a small faction of folks dancing off to the right. We gladly joined them, two-stepping and spinning into a nice sweat. Ever the showman, Willie slows the showed down, treating the crowd to touching versions of "Blue Skies", "Georgia", and "Always on My Mind" (to name only a few). At one point, tipping his hat to original outlaw, Waylon Jennings, Willie led the band through inspiring versions of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and "Fly, Fly Away". After two plus hours of music, Willie asked everyone if they could handle a few more, and the next thing I knew, it was boogie-woogie time as the band ripped through a couple of classic 50's rockers to end the show on a wonderfully raucous note.
As the show came to an end, Willie stepped up front to sign autographs and shake hands. While he did this the band kept playing in the background. What a sight: Willie, front and center, signing autographs and shaking hands, while the band jammed on. This went on for ten or fifteen minutes at the very least.
Outside, the grumpy grumps crowded around the black jack tables and roulette wheels. We dumped twenty-five bucks on black when we should of picked red, but it didn't matter at all. Willie Nelson rocked the house that Friday and it was worth every chip in the joint.