It was a beautiful sunny weekday afternoon in the Texas hill county when the crowds came in droves to see a legend and hall of fame award recipient. This wasn’t just another concert on the tour calendar for the legend nor the fans. Everyone was excited to help celebrate a life that is still committed to the fans — the birthday of Willie Nelson.
The event was hosted by the prestigious Backyard venue that houses large scale acts, usually fitted for a 5-10 thousand fan response to advertising. The Backyard continued to be the perfect venue for the birthday bash, as it’s been the home for this event for several years in a row. Everything lined up in just the right way setting the stage for an amazing event.
The doors were scheduled to open at 6:30pm, that didn’t happen. Due to a internal venue situation the doors opened closer to 7:30 with a long line of fans waiting to bust down the gates. The BBQ, drinks and smiles were flowing as admirers got the party started. Waiting for the sun to set, a hum of excitement permeated throughout the venue.
As the sun left sky for the day you could tell that the ramp up to the main event was about to get underway. But before we could enjoy the music of the legend, the Peterson Bros. from Austin took the stage to entertain us with a power trio of drum, bass and guitar. With rocking vocals of rock, blues and county the Peterson Bros. get the blood flowing and everyone hugging the stage in anticipation for the birthday boy.
After the brother had wrapped an exciting opening set, there was a lull as we waited for all of our visions of a legend to come true. After a short time of adjusting on-stage equipment, the announcement came over the loud speakers; “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please?! Please welcome the Texas Hall of Fame inductee — Willie Nelson!” The crowed went crazy as the 81 year-old Nelson walked onto the stage with this five piece band, waving and smiling as if age made no difference.
Nelson, multi-platinum selling artist, kept all 6k+ crowd members glued to the stage for over two and and half hours of solid music — only breaking twice to ask “How ya doing out there?” and “Thank you for having us!” The graceful Nelson encompassed, in “good ole’ boy” fashion, the dedication that should be modeled by every music act. He performed classic after classic — no-stop — leaving nothing to want and over delivering on his vocal ability and musicianship. Showcasing his weathered guitar “Trigger” front and center was an added benefit to witnessing an artist that is more than an artist, Willie Nelson is a national treasure, embodying the spirit of the Americana West.
Nelson’s set included songs from the early years (“Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”) from which sounded as if he had just stepped out of the studio that day, never wavering or sounds of age in his voice. As the party started to come to a close, we were privileged to hear new music that will be featured on a new album out this summer. Musically, there was nothing to want for. His band was not a large complex machine; a simple five-piece band of drum, bass, guitar, harmonica and piano which was so tasteful no more of anything was needed to complete the auditory experience.
“Some glad morning…” as the 81 year-old Nelson started singing and bringing family and crew members on to the stage to accompany for the final song of the birthday extravaganza. This was a perfect close to a flawless event, on all levels. There was no preaching nor prayer for the crowd to participate in. However, there was a sense of community and unity amongst everyone there as the the crowed erupted in the unison of singing to “I’ll Fly Away” as if everyone was one person sharing in the moment.
After the finale, and the feelings were running extremely high, Mr. Nelson stayed around for 45mins afterwards signing everything from cowboy hats to event posters making the entire event worth 10x the VIP ticket price.
If there is anything to be said about Willie Nelson it is that classic American values and dedication to high value is still alive and well. On a final note; the next time you come up with an excuse to doing anything be reminded of the 81 year-old Willie Nelson that over-delivers on a performance for a solid 2.5 hours without stopping and staying to connect with his fans. Remembering that; age matters not.