I spend a lot of time pissed off that so many legendary artists and bands died or disbanded long before my time. Lucky for me and everyone else at Georgia Theatre last night, Willie Nelson lives on.
His mere presence was haunting. Nelson’s RV, airbrushed with murals of a Native American warrior, an eagle and his piercing, wrinkle embedded gaze parked outside of the theatre set the mood.
His playing was timeless. Despite being a ripe 79 years old, Willie Nelson’s finger picking showed no signs of age.
At moments, though, it was clear that Nelson has seen better days. He opened with “Whiskey River,” and was lacking a little in the energy and power with which he once sang. He stepped away from the microphone many times to cough into his wrinkled fist. It was both distressing and inspiring to witness a musical hero perform in the twilight of his life.
But with each song, Nelson warmed up. His voice grew stronger and his smile wider. His characteristic points into the crowd or towards the ceiling animated his storytelling lyrics. He moved into a set of his infamous love songs, and then it happened:
In the middle of “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground,” Nelson caught an airborne, stage-bound bra in one hand. He didn’t miss so much as a strum of the guitar. Rather, he tossed the undergarment aside and continued to play while laughing at his own undying sex appeal.
The remainder of the show became a singalong, beginning with “On the Road Again,” a few Hank Williams favorites, songs from his new album (Let’s Face the Music and Dance) and a very spiritual “Will the Circle Be Unbroken/I’ll Fly Away.”
Perhaps most moving was the total humility and almost shyness he exuded, as he introduced his band members, nodded his head and sincerely thanked everyone in attendance. Without hesitation, when the show ended, Nelson walked across the front of the stage to shake hands and sign autographs for fans of all ages.
I hope Willie Nelson outlives us all.