Willie Nelson Shows Perfection at the Shubert Theater

Willie Nelson
Shubert Theater, New Haven, CT
June 18, 2012

It always amazes me when I see Willie Nelson perform live.  Each year, the living legend gets older and I half expect him to sound a bit less like himself or to perform a shorter set.  Yet, each year he surpasses my expectations and sounds exactly like the man I have grown up listening to.  On Tuesday night, at the Shubert Theater in New Haven, CT, it was no exception.  Not only did Willie sound perfect, but he belted out a thirty song set chalk full of hits new and old. 

He started the show in all black from his cowboy hat to his t-shirt and pants – and in typical fashion, sang “Whiskey River”.  A few notes into the song a giant Texas flag draped the entire backdrop of the stage.  He showed his skillful guitar picking on “Still Is Still Moving To Me” and performed a folksy rendition of his #1 duet with Toby Keith, “Beer For My Horses”.  Willie did not speak too much between songs, but was full of thanks and smiles. 

Most pleasing and surprising was that Willie sang several newer and humorous tracks such as “Superman”, a duet he recorded with rapper Snoop Doggy Dog as well as “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die”, a song he recorded again with Snoop as well as Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristoferson on his newest album, “Heroes”. He had the crowd cracking up to “You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore” and cheering to a song he had written with Waylon Jennings called “Write Your Own Song”.  That track was written as an insult to the record executives who tried to push around artists in Nashville.  Willie does not get pushed around by anyone nowadays and that song really made you think about how Waylon and Willie rebelled against the system back in the day. 

Of course, Willie did not leave out some of his biggest and most legendary hits, such as “Always On My Mind”, “On The Road Again” and “Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground”.  He even performed a beautiful guitar solo that reminded me of a Spanish Guitar Melody as an intro to his old classic, “I Never Cared For You”. But no matter what Willie Nelson sang into the microphone at the intimate Shubert Theater, it was a real reminder that Willie is still at the top of his game and has no signs of slowing down. 

SETLIST:

  1. Whiskey River
  2. Still Is Still Moving to Me
  3. Beer For My Horses
  4. Time Slips Away
  5. Crazy
  6. Nightlife is No Good Life
  7. Listen to the Blues That Are Playing
  8. Down Yonder (piano solo by Bobby Nelson)
  9. Me and Paul
  10. Help me Make it Through the Night
  11. Good Hearted Woman (Waylon Jennings Cover)
  12. On the Bayou (Hank Williams Cover)
  13. Hey Good Looking (Hank Williams Cover)
  14. Move It On Over
  15. Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys
  16. Angel Flying Too Close To the Ground
  17. On the Road Again
  18. Anything You Ask Me To
  19. Georgia on a Fast Train
  20. Georgia On My Mind
  21. Window Faces the South
  22. Cold War
  23. Superman
  24. You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore
  25. Write Your Own Song
  26. Solo – Spanish guitar
  27. I Never Cared For You
  28. Fly away
  29. Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die
  30. I Saw The Light

VIDEOS:

Beer For My Horses
Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die

 

Superman
On The Road Again

Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

Guitar Solo
Always On My Mind

Lukas Nelson & His Band Deliver on Their Promise of Real Music

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
May 25, 2012
Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real kicked off Memorial Day Weekend in Hartford, Connecticut with a spark and a flame.  The band performed an amazing eighteen song set at the Arch Street Tavern and packed it with original material, legendary covers, and gifted instrumental performances.  Lukas, son of living legend, Willie Nelson, displayed his amazing vocals as well as a plethora of electric guitar licks that could rival anyone in the music business. 

The last time I saw the band was as an opening act on the Country Throwdown Tour last Summer.  Since then, the band recently released a new album entitled, “Wasted”, and Lukas was featured on various songs in his father’s newest album, “Heroes”.  Lukas’ appearance has drastically changed as well.  He used to have long hair and wear a cowboy hat; however, he showed up with much shorter hair, a go-tee, and dark black eye-glasses (which he did not wear while performing).  But, much to his fans delight, his sound has not wavered at all.  Lukas’ vocals were spot on and his guitar playing was impressive as ever.  From the opening note of “Golden Rule” to closing jam-out, Lukas showed exactly why the Nelson Family is often referred to as one of the most talented musical families in the business. 

Each song had its own added “jam-out” strategically placed within the song.  Songs such as “Ain’t No Answer”, “Wasted”, “Don’t Take Me Back”, and “Four Letter Word” seemed to stand out to me as each member of the band got to shine on the tracks.  Lukas is backed by Anthony LoGerfo on the drums, Tato Melgar on percussion (mostly the bongos), and Corey McCormick on bass guitar.  The band is equally as impressive as their band leader as each member is clearly skilled at their craft.  In fact, their music is very unique in today’s world.  I cannot say what genre of music I would place the POTR in as they cross-over into everything from country to folk to rock with a bit of a Latin touch with Melgar’s infectious bongos.  Each song seemed to be extinguished with a jump kick and final intense guitar strum from Lukas. 

Lukas delighted the crowd with a slew of his own takes on some legendary covers.  He performed a dark and spirited version of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me In the Morning”,  had everyone singing along to David Bowie’s “Major Tom”, and brought the fans back in time with Pink Floyd’s “Money”.  However, I really thought the highlight of the set was when he sang two song’s from Willie Nelson’s newest album, “Heroes”.  As I stated, Lukas was featured on multiple songs on that album (nine in all) and he performed two of those tracks.  “No Place To Fly” is the traditional old style country song that fans are accustomed to Willie singing.  However, father and son combined for an incredible version of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” which I think is one of the best covers of any song I have heard in a long time.  Lukas did his best solo rendition without his father by his side and nailed it.  It has a hauntingly beautiful melody while Lukas’ unique voice, on that night, flowed over the song with brilliance

The POTR finished off their set as one would assume they would, with a heart-melting jam-out session where each band member had their time to shine.  The jam lasted well over ten minutes and the band took a group bow together once they finished.  Lukas and the band waiting by the stage after their performance and greeted each of their fans.  I took a photo with Lukas and discussed his home town of Paia, Hawaii as I recently visited there – and coincidentally, Lukas was wearing a t-shirt with the town displayed on the front.  I will not hesitate to see Lukas and the POTR again and again.  Their music style is refreshing in this day in age and I hope more fans will be able to appreciate and witness their unique and talented artistry. 

SETLIST:

  1. Golden Rule
  2. Ain’t No Answer
  3. Peaceful Solution
  4. Wasted
  5. Meet Me In The Morning (Bob Dylan Cover)
  6. Can You Hear Me Love You
  7. Wasn’t That Great
  8. Sound Of Your Memory
  9. The Joint
  10. Don’t Take Me Back
  11. Major Tom (David Bowie Cover)
  12. Don’t Lose Your Mind
  13. Money (Pink Floyd)
  14. 4 letter word
  15. Just Breathe (Pearl Jam Cover)
  16. No Place To Fly
  17. Amazing Grace (Acoustic Version)
  18. Solos by each band member individually

VIDEOS:

Just Breathe

4 Letter Word
Meet Me In The Morning

The Hag Leaves CT with Legendary Memories

Merle Haggard
Warner Theater
Torrington, CT
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. 

VIDEOS:

“Pancho & Lefty”

Intro & “All My Friends”
“Mama Tried”

“Okie From Muskogee”

“Are The Good Times Really Over”

SETLIST:

  1. All My Friends
  2. Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down
  3. Mama Tried
  4. Big City
  5. Silver Wings
  6. I Am What I Am
  7. The Highway Is My Home
  8. Ramblin’ Fever
  9. What Am I Going To Do With the Rest of my Life
  10. Heaven Was a Drink of Wine
  11. Are The Good Times Really Over
  12. Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink
  13. Back To Earth
  14. If We Make It Through December
  15. Working In Tennessee
  16. Sing Me Back Home
  17. Okie From Muskogee
  18. Pancho & Lefty