From his first chords to his final bow, Willie Nelson charmed a packed house, as his Willie Nelson and the Family Tour made a stop in Boston at the Orpheum Theatre, Friday, January 25. While Nelson’s repertoire of folk-country hits such as “Georgia on My Mind,” “Pancho & Lefty,”and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” are legendary in the south and southwest, he has also generated a rabid fan base in New England, as evidenced by the impassioned crowd, which sang along with each verse, draft beer held high.
Rollicking through over 2 1/2 hours of classics as “Good Hearted Woman,” “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time,” and “Whiskey River” (twice), Nelson displayed an energy level that rivals most artists several decades his junior. Paying homage to his home state of Texas, Nelson performed in front of an oversized flag of the Lone Star State, much to the delight of the 30 plus members of the HBS Texas Club who were in attendance.
One masterful rendering was Nelson’s touching performance of “Always on My Mind.” A classic by any estimation, Nelson’s emotive delivery left hairs standing on end and more than a few eyes teary.
Amazing is Nelson’s power to churn through song after song of standards, yet still keep them sounding fresh and relevant. Much can be attributed to the exquisitely crafted lyrics, which know no time or place and transcend both generations and geographies.
Nelson was touring to promote his latest album, The Great Divide, an offering of duets featuring the likes of Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Rob Thomas (of Matchbox 20), and country-sensation Lee Ann Womack. This range is not surprising, as Nelson drew a decidedly mixed crowd, boasting equal numbers of cowboys, hippies, suits, and students.
Despite being admirably accompanied by a five-piece ensemble, Nelson masterfully employed the services of a sixth instrument, the Orpheum itself. Boasting some of the finest acoustics of any concert hall in New England, the Orpheum proved to be the perfect complement for the intricate harmonies that interlace Nelson’s catalogue.
On balance, the setting was perfect, the delivery flawless, and those lucky enough to be in attendance filed out of the Orpheum having witnessed one of the true legends of our day.