Willie Nelson and his family hit the Santa Barbara Bowl

Last Thursday, October 21, the father of the outlaw country, Willie Nelson, took the stage at the Santa Barbara Bowl. As part of his Willie Nelson & Family tour, the legendary singer was joined by singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams as they performed to a packed house.

Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

The show was scheduled to start at 7 p.m., but Williams took the stage shortly after the initial start time. Escorted by staff to her microphone, she quickly launched into her 1988 track “Big Red Sun Blues”. After finishing the song, Williams addressed the delighted audience, saying, “Thank you for being so welcoming.” She took a moment to thank Nelson for inviting her on his tour. One thing that was certainly on the public’s mind during his set was his health. Last November, Willams suffered a stroke, which affected the left side of his body. As a result, she was unable to play guitar during her set. That being said, she was still spirited and said, “I’m still here!” Which was greeted with applause from the audience.

During her set, Williams performed the song “Drunken Angel” from her 1998 commercial breakthrough album “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road”. Before performing the song, she gave the context of the inspiration behind the song. She explained to the audience that it was written for the late country musician Blaze Foley, a friend and contemporary of Townes Van Zandt, whom Williams knew when he lived in Austin.

After concluding “Drunken Angel” she shared with the audience that “people tell me your songs are so dark”. By this time the hall lights were out – witty stage work. Williams then explained that his music was heavily influenced by the sounds of the Appalachians as well as the music of the region.

Entering the fourth song of the set, Williams almost got it wrong, before being corrected by one of her band members. Correcting herself, she entered her 2016 track “Can’t Close the Door on Love”. As she began the next song, “Overtime” from 2003, Williams jokingly pointed out, “Well, this is the song I was telling you about.” This was greeted with laughter from some in the audience. The song featured bassist David Sutton forgoing his electric bass for a double bass, which complimented the song’s slowed-down tempo.

The two-time performance of her tracks “Honey Bee” and “Righteously” towards the end of her performance produced electrifying excitement in the hall. These two renditions of songs underscored just how alive Williams was, despite having suffered a stroke less than a year ago. It was certainly a testament to Williams and his backing band, which included guitarist Stuart Mathis, drummer Johnathan “Butch” Norton and Sutton on bass. Throughout the night, the artists fed and played on each other. After finishing his set with “Joy”, the singer-songwriter received a standing ovation. Before leaving the stage, Williams said, “Thank you very much. Peace and love.”

At around 8:45 p.m., the hall lights went out again and the stage was flooded with red light as Nelson walked on stage to the cheers and roars of the crowd, who aptly gave him a standing ovation. After walking over to the microphone, Nelson leaned over and asked, “How are you all doing?” Sitting in the center of the stage, he began his set with his usual overture: the 1973 classic “Whiskey River”. After concluding the song, Nelson wasted no time and jumped straight into the track “Still Is Still Moving to Me”. During the song, Nelson took on one of the many guitar solos he would take that night. At the ripe old age of 88, he still has the prowess to impress with his game.

A standout song of the evening was Nelson’s rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s classic “Me and Bobby McGee”, which has been covered by artists including Waylon Jennings, Janis Joplin and Dolly Parton. Nelson’s performance takes Kristofferson’s melancholy ballad of lost love and transforms it into a catchy honky-tonk country tune. Before going into the next song, Nelson again greeted the audience, saying, “Thank you very much everyone. How are you?”

Nelson was also accompanied by another guest on his tour, his youngest son Micah, who sat next to him on stage throughout the set. Micah introduced the following song while recounting a conversation he had with Nelson in December 2020. During their conversation, Nelson casually suggested a title for a song saying, “If I die when I’m high I’ll be halfway to paradise. . Nelson then challenged Micah to write a song with that title. Micah then began the songwriting process. Reflecting on the process, Micah admitted to the audience that he imagined himself to be Nelson when he wrote. What was created was the song “If I Die When I’m High I’ll Be Halfway to Heaven,” and it’s a tour exclusive.

Towards the end of the show, a giant American flag descended on the stage, and before giving the audience a moment to contemplate, Nelson burst into his 1980 classic “On the Road Again”. The crowd instantly went wild with elation. Nelson asked the audience to join them, which they happily went to. During the song, a sea of ​​cell phone screens emerged to record the captivating performance. Nelson ended his night at the Santa Barbara Bowl with “It’s Hard to Be Humble”. After his performance, he was greeted with another standing ovation. As he stepped off the stage, Nelson threw four red bandanas into the audience, then pulled the red bandana and hat off his head to throw them into the crowd.

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