April 19, 2012
In a time where music is dominated by autotune, backup dancers, and absurd clothing, it is not every day an audience can see a real living legend. Thursday was the exception, as country music legend Merle Haggard took to the stage at the intimate Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut. The Hag, as he is often referred to by his real fans, has overcome a recent bout with pneumonia and has taken on an ambitious tour packed with plenty of back to back tour nights.
Despite all of these speed bumps, Merle sounded absolutely magnificent on Thursday night. His son, Noel, and his daughter started things off with a short set. They sang some classic style country music and you could see that the talent has spread throughout the Haggard Family. At approximately 8:15, The Hag took to the stage with a black hat, sunglasses, and electric guitar. He started things off with a lesser known song, “All My Friends” (see video below), and followed it up with a slew of mega-hits: “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down”, “Mama Tried” (see video below), and “Big City” and “Silver Wings”. The night quickly turned into a sing-a-long as fans, young and old, knew the songs word for word.
I read a review of Merle’s show from this past weekend at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and saw the setlist from that night. I was expecting an identical setlist, but was very surprised that it was not. He sang some of my personal favorites on this night, such as “Heaven Was a Drink of Wine”, “I Am What I Am” and his closing song, the legendary song “Pancho & Lefty” (see video below), originally recorded with Willie Nelson. He even sang a song, “Back To Earth” from the iconic double album “Last of the Breed”, which he recorded with Willie and Ray Price. It was a dream setlist and Merle’s vocals were spot on.
Merle did not do much talking between the songs, but when he did he showed his sense of humor. He poked fun at himself when he introduced his Band, The Strangers, and said they were the Band of the Year when he was twenty years old and now his is forty. He told the crowd that he expects his song “If We Make It Through December” to be more valuable and royalty checks to go up because of all of the doomsday predictions for this coming December. He also facetiously stated that his career was going so well until he had to release a song called “Okie From Musgokee” (see video below) and everything was downhill from there.
I have had the pleasure of seeing various artists who have achieved legendary status, such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Elton John, Carlos Santana, and Paul McCartney. Merle’s performance and vocals stacked up to the best of the icons I have seen live. He even surprised me when he took hold of a fiddle and played it to perfection during his new song “Working In Tennessee”. Everything Merle did that night was just that, in my eyes, perfection. It has been a long wait for me to see The Hag, but sitting in the 13th row in such an intimate theater such as the Warner Theater, it made me appreciate what he has done for music history, that much more.
- All My Friends
- Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down
- Mama Tried
- Big City
- Silver Wings
- I Am What I Am
- The Highway Is My Home
- Ramblin’ Fever
- What Am I Going To Do With the Rest of my Life
- Heaven Was a Drink of Wine
- Are The Good Times Really Over
- Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink
- Back To Earth
- If We Make It Through December
- Working In Tennessee
- Sing Me Back Home
- Okie From Muskogee
- Pancho & Lefty