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Willie Nelson at the Hertz Arena

Willie Nelson came to Hertz Arena, in Estero Florida on November 12th and played a 21-song set that displayed a solid case for his label of living legend. Nelson is a musical performer, songwriter, author, poet, activist, and has an impressive acting resume to boot. “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In the Rain” and “Crazy” from his catalog were not even offered, and the set list was still a veritable gold mine. Withstanding such omissions without taking away from the overall quality of the performance is a trick Blackstone the Magician could not easily reproduce. Nelson has just mined so much gold over the years, the audience pans too much to notice.

Nelson joined his Electric Horsemen and opened with “Whiskey River” and he took our minds away from our daily worries as if he were 100 proof. “Good Timin’ Woman” was offered to give a nod to Waylon Jennings. Duets now played solo recalled many artists during the night who have crossed Willie’s path in different ways. Merle Haggard, Billy Jo Shaver, Django Reinhardt, Elvis, and Sinatra were only some among them.

Nelson flung sweaty red bandannas to the audience, as if he were Elvis doling out scarves. Bob Dylan has remarked that, “Once Elvis sang a song it was sung. Yet,” he said, “Willie still took the standard ‘Always on My Mind’, and had somehow made it his own after Elvis had already branded it.” Willie served it up tonight, and the crowd ate up the song and gifts of head-gear as if it were fine Texas barbecue.

Willie informed that his piano-tinkling sister was to be inaugurated into the Texas

County Music Hall of Fame (along with Kenny Rogers). Bobby Nelson shined especially bright in two instrumentals, a cover of Django Reinhardt’s “Nuages” and Raggedy Ed’ Bowman’s “Twelfth Street Rag.” Willie beamed as Bobby shone like a star.

Nelson’s new album is “My Way,” a tribute to Frank Sinatra. This night Nelson broke into “In Other Words,” announcing it with, “Let’s try one off the new Sinatra album.” Willie’s outfit of dark tee shirt and dungarees couldn’t be further from the finely tailored wardrobe of Sinatra. Yet, Nelson dug deep into the essence of the song and masterfully displayed the same roots Sinatra used to rise the splendid number to an unforgettable masterpiece. Nelson didn’t require the help of an orchestra, which was no mean feat. This ability seems to stem from a unique artistic gift which cannot be adequately defined.

An old-time Gospel Hour stopped the show, ending the festivities with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away” and Hank Williams’ “ Saw the Light.” The audience sang along with Reverend Nelson, in a highlight section that would not require any voter recounts to determine the winner.

Los Lonely Boys opened the show, in a six-song jam session worthy of a headliner on any other given night. A cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “All Along the Bayou” was second to none (beside that of John Fogerty). Lead guitarist Henry Garza came out to join in on Willie Nelson’s show closing old-time revival. Nelson left the theatre as his band covered for his escape by jamming for a few extra minutes. The crowd already seemed ready to line up for tickets for the next time that Willie rolls back into town.

Photo Credit: Wayne Herrschaft

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