Willie Nelson at House of Blue Houston – the review

The term “living legend” is thrown around a lot.  So much so that very often it loses its meaning.

That was not the case on Saturday night as I was able to catch a true American original and Living Legend at the newly opened House of Blues – Houston.

I got the tickets to see Willie for my 40th birthday in September.  Since then it has been a waiting game for the day of the show.

The evening started with a couple of drinks in the HoB, followed by dinner with the rest of our concert going group.  True, we missed the opening act, but, truth be told, nobody was there for that.

Shortly after 10 pm, Willie took the stage and played for a solid 80 minutes without a break.  He opened with “Whiskey River” to the delight of the Houston crowd.  Wearing a black cowboy hat and strumming away on Trigger, Nelson seemed much younger than his 75 years.

The arena at HoB is relatively small, so even arriving shortly before show time, we were able to grab some great floor space.  Our view of the piano was obscured, but the rest of the band was in clear view.

One of the first things that struck me was the fact that Willie was playing with what amounted to a jazz band.  He had his sister on piano, a bass player, a percussionist, a harmonica player and a drummer.  That’s it.  Bear in mind that the drummer had a snare drum…THAT’S IT!

With such minimal instrumentation, Willie had the packed house eating out of the palm of his hand.

I was able to snap a couple of really cool pictures before some burly door guy smacked me on the shoulder and told me not to use the flash.

As Willie played, he went deep into his catalog.  As I watched him sing “Crazy,” I was struck by the shear breadth of this man’s music.  He’s been involved in country music in one way or another since the 60s.  That’s simply amazing.

The cowboy hat eventually gave way to Willie’s trademark red bandana.  I watched him pick a prefolded bandana off the speaker, whip it around the neck of Trigger and tie it off before sliding it over his head to a roar of applause from the crowd.

The show veered from straight ahead country, into gospel, then the blues and finally a medley of Hank Williams songs.  Through it all Willie played and smiled and generally looked like he was having as much fun as his audience.

I think the biggest reaction of the night was for “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”  In a Texas town on a Saturday night it doesn’t get much better than that.

I also liked when Willie played Toby Keith’s “Beer for My Horses.”  I guess appearing on the song and in the video gave him the right.  Either that or Toby Keith signed something while partaking on Willie’s bus.  Either way, its a great song for Willie and the crowd ate it up.

The show ended with Willie performing “City of New Orleans” and a second round of “Whiskey River.”  I got most of that on video.  Enjoy.

I’ve seen Willie once before, in the middle of the Astrodome floor at the Houston Rodeo.  This was much, MUCH cooler.  I loved the venue, but even more, I was thrilled to see a performer who has been such a part of my life still at the top of his game.

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