Errols Weekly Music Update.

July 29, 2010

Concert Review: Willie Nelson at Radio City Music Hall on Wed. July 28, 2010

“Summer Schoolin’”

Willie Nelson rode into town last night, set up shop at one of the Mecca’s in New York City- Radio City Music Hall- and despite the fact that the calendar says July- he “schooled” the audience by showing everyone there that he is every bit (and more) the legendary professor of American music. By the time Willie had finished, you would have thought that you were outdoors sitting around a campfire listening a bunch of friends jamming together making beautiful music under a sparkling summer night-all the concrete surrounding seemingly fading away as Willie brought a little “Country” to this “paved City.” Being a life long “New Yorker” I know this “town” doesn’t get enough of his style of home town cooking and after last night’s performance I can state that we need to give Willie the key to New York City and let him know he can come back here any time he wants. I say he opens his own place-like his friend BB did-and put his brand of Country and American music back on the menu in New York. Folks, I’m telling you right now this man is a national treasure and I am so glad that I finally went to see him perform live for the first time ever. Willie was created to make music-you know how certain people are just perfect for what profession they choose to do?-well I’m convinced when the moment Willie was born, he was given a guitar. More than a few times last night I sat there in complete awe because I didn’t know what to expect and then there he was at the head of the class performing so naturally, so effortlessly that he exceeded my expectations of living up to his legendary status. In today’s society, there are so many distractions and “props” that tend to over-stimulate or give a false sense of grandeur but in walks Willie-the Professor- who takes you back to the basics- “Reading, Riting & Righteousness”- as the music flowed with such natural beauty that it took today’s superficial “wow factor” back to its original meaning. Sometimes it is the simple things-like the way Willie and friends quaintly set up their stage despite the spectacular backdrop of Radio City- that take you back to “peace & tranquility.” Willie mesmerized his audience with beautiful moments throughout the evening and they loved and appreciated him back with heartfelt applause. In the end, it was the class that gave an “A++” grade to its Professor and we all look forward to the next time Willie will be teaching us the value of appreciating great music.

The night started with Andy and I meeting outside the steamy Hall as the humidity was back in full force again in New York after a reprieve of a day or so. As we entered on 51st street, I was taken back on how striking Radio City is as it had been a while since I had been there for a music show. The crowd was amongst the most diverse in age that I have ever seen in all the years of attending concerts. Everyone from high-school kids to grandparents were out to enjoy the summer night and there was a sense of family as people all around were talking to each other even if they didn’t meet before last night. The opening act was the Levon Helm band and when they took the stage it seemed like the security outside the place had opened another entrance because the amount of people that came out from behind the curtain was a sight to behold. I counted at least 13 which included pianist Donald Fagen and of course the legendary Levon Helm behind the skins. It did take a couple of songs for them to warm up but once they hit their stride, the musicianship was electrifying as there were solos from the boys playing the acoustic guitar, electric guitar, trombone, trumpet, tenor sax, alto sax and other wind & horn instruments and the women singers on stage displayed an energy and passion that was second to none. As their set went on Andy remarked that the other male singers sounded eerily like Levon so at points you didn’t know if it were Levon or not. Levon did not sing many of the songs but the ones he saved for himself were very good. If you didn’t know any better you would have thought that you were down in New Orleans or anywhere on the Bayou as the festive type music was being played with such fervor that I was expecting people dancing in the aisle. (That won’t happen at Radio City as everyone is expected to remain in their seats). It was a fusion of blues, rockabilly, jazz, country and of course with a twist of rock and roll. One had a funny feeling that Willie was going to come and join them for a song and he did just that for the last song of their set-“The Weight.” Wow after so many years of listening to that song on the radio or now on my I-Pod, I was able to see it performed by Helm and Nelson-what a treat!! This brought so many smiles to the faces of the audience and if I could read minds I know everyone was going back to the time and place when this song forged unforgettable memories in their lifetime. The moment was surreal and songs like this one in my opinion have shaped and defined American music and it’s a memory we all have now.

After Levon’s band exited there was a pretty short break because as I mentioned, the setup on this huge stage for Willie’s band was compact. As he entered the stage, I was looking for a drum set similar to the one that Levon sat behind but to my surprise there was none. The drummer basically had a snare drum set upon a table and played while standing up. There was a gentleman to the right of the stage (when sitting in the audience) that had a harmonica, Willie had his acoustic guitar and there was another gentleman with the bass. Now when they started to play I heard the piano but did not initially see anyone on the stage with them. When they were into their third song or so I asked Andy who was playing the piano. He pointed her out, from our vantage point she was barely legible due to the way her piano was positioned and with the bass player standing near her, I never really saw what she looked like. It didn’t matter at all to my ears as she was flawless throughout the night as her entrances and exits to the songs were very inconspicuous but added to the flavor of the night. Willie kicked off the night with “Whiskey River” and right off the bat the first thing I noticed was his presence on the stage. He didn’t do it purposely because he is so comfortably cool but to me it was like a “sighting.” Yes one sees him all the time on the internet, TV or print avenues but to see him upon the stage in person with his all black outfit and the trademark red handkerchief around his head was something that I will not forget. I know I have been to many shows but I guess I have not seen that many legends. The familiar “Beer for My Horses” had the audience singing the chorus back to him while toasting their beers high in the air. He did a melody of songs which included –“Crazy”- which he wrote but was made popular by Patsy Cline. Then the band did an instrumental where Willie introduced his “Little sister Bobbie” on the piano. The band was tight and the audience knew from the very beginning it was going to be a special night. He told a funny story about “Me & Paul” which had the crowd laughing with some of the mischievous things they went through. “If You Got the Money Honey, I Got the Time” was one of the highlights of the show as their was some righteous guitar playing as well as a wicked harmonica solo, complimented with a nice piano solo. This was a night packed with his biggest hits and it then became very quiet as Willie’s guitar strummed the opening notes to “Georgia on My mind.” And it did not seem that the class would take a chance on talking and disturbing the Professor as I think the majority of the audience was in deep admiration of what we were all listening to. The pace picked up a bit with “Good Hearted Woman” and the guy playing the harmonica was absolutely on fire as the music just flowed right through him like he was possessed.

The crowd joined in and helped him sing the familiar “On the Road Again” and I for one had not heard this song in a long time so it was fun to sing along to. The campfire atmosphere quickly quieted as we all heard the opening notes to the exquisite-“Always on My Mind”- at this point I couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying the show. You could almost hear a pin drop as Willie’s vocals were top notch. As the song ended, the audience arose from their chair to give Mr. Nelson a standing ovation. Things picked again as there was another instrumental that showcased their musicianship and then the song called –“Superman”- had some real “giddy-up” to it and if you closed your eyes you might have thought that Jerry Lee Lewis was on the piano and Steven Tyler has nothing on the man playing harmonica-absolute flawlessness. The jamming atmosphere picked up a heavy pace as “Bloody Mary Morning” was probably the song that one could almost head bang to. Willie had a sweet guitar solo in the wonderful-“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain- and then took the crowd back up again as the raucous “I Gotta Get Drunk” put the crowd in over-drive. I loved the part of the lyrics where he states that he has to get drunk because there are more drunks than doctors. The end of the show brought out the familiar-“Moving On Over”-which was made famous by George Thorogood and Willie and his band showed that they could kick it up with just about any type of song. Willie implored his “little sister” to start the last song of the night-“I Saw the Light”- and again she was so good, as were the rest of the band that I sat there thinking that this could be one of the best shows that I have ever seen. Willie was gracious as he shook hands with the lucky audience members sitting near the front row and he signed autographs on just about anything that was handed to him. The night ended with no encores, again we were being schooled on how it is suppose to be done.

Willie went back to the basics (maybe not for him but I know for many members of the audience who are used to other types of concerts) and displayed his immense talents as New York was treated to some real down home American music which it not used to being served. Thank you Willie, for an unforgettable evening.

Set List

1.        Whiskey River

2.        Still is Still Moving to Me

3.        Beer for My Horses

4.        Shoeshine Man

5.        Funny How Time Slips Away

6.        Crazy

7.        Night Life

8.        Instrumental

9.        Me and Paul

10.     If You Got the Money Honey, I Got the Time

11.     Georgia on My Mind

12.     Good Hearted Woman

13.     Angels Flying Too Close to the Ground

14.     On the Road Again

15.     Always on My Mind

16.     Instrumental

17.     Superman

18.     You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore

19.     Bloody Mary Morning

20.    Nobody’s Fault But Mine

21.     Fools Like Me

22.     Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain

23.     We Don’t Run

24.     I’ll Fly Away

25.     I Gotta Get Drunk

26.     Jambalaya

27.     Hey Good Lookin’

28.     Moving On Over

29.     I Saw the Light

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3 Comments »

  1. Willie sings, before he plays the music.
    This timing is very annoying.
    Levon Helm and his band were perfect.

    Comment by William Crockett — August 2, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  2. With all due respect to the author, the audience did not dance during Levon Helm’s performance because “at Radio City as everyone is expected to remain in their seats”, they didn’t dance because of the makeup of the audience. If Levon had opened for a band such as Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident or Bob Weir and Ratdog, people would have been dancing in their seats, the aisles and anywhere else that they could. When my friends and I stood up to dance during his set we were told by people around us to sit down!!! This could be attributed directly to the mostly Willie Nelson crowd at Radio City. Besides that, I agree with the author in regards to his comments about the entire show. An excellent performance all around.

    Comment by Michael — August 2, 2010 @ 11:40 am

  3. I was on holiday I New York when I realised willie was in concert across the road from my hotel. I thought that the opening band were good but went on for too long as I was really there to see Willie Nelson. When willie did sing I did not recognise the songs at first due to the timing a and the backing music. I enjoyed it and he still has at times that wonderful quality to his voice but I felt that maybe age has caught up with him as he appeared to “talk” a lot of the songs rather than actually sing. I am from England and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see him but I was a little dissapointed with his singing. Sorry Willie!

    Comment by Ann miles — August 10, 2010 @ 4:13 pm


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