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Willie Nelson
A Concert Review

March 18, 1997

House of Blues

Chicago, IL

A Review and Photos by
The Dude on the Right
Willie Photo 1
Willie Nelson
As the rock scene continues to change from metal to alternative to modern to techno to crap, and the country scene moves from twang to traditional to pop to crap, it's good to know some things in the world remain a constant. You've got death, you've got taxes, you've got rich getting richer , you've got poor getting poorer, and you've got Willie Nelson, well, just plain being Willie Nelson, playing before a packed crowd at the House of Blues in Chicago.

The House of Blues is a tough place for an artist or band to play, and sometimes a weird place to see a show. Why? Well, a lot of times you get a bunch of tourists there, not so much to see a particular singer, but just to say they were there. I've seen quite a few bands fail to wrap the entire crowd into the show, and the ones that have done so are usually rock or metal-style bands (the music is so loud that you can't really talk to your friend). Well, I'm happy to say the Willie Nelson had nearly everyone in the crowd signin', dancin', and just plain having fun.

As I'm looking around before the show I notice there aren't many cowboy hats, pretty slim pickins on the shit-kickers, and not really a big and shiny belt buckle to be found anywhere. But then again Willie Nelson always had this great ability to appeal to more than your "generic" country fan, and this crowd that ranged from 18 to 80 (it was 18 and over - hence the lower limit) was more than prepared to have a good time. All they needed was a little push - and Willie was more than happy to give it.

Willie Photo 2
Willie was touring in support of his new CD, "Spirit," but that didn't stop him from dipping into his repertoire spanning a musical career of so many songs that have never been forgotten. You know the songs, "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "If You've Got the Money Honey (I've Got the Time)," "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," and the list goes on and on. But as much as the show was about his hits, it was also about spotlighting a career and a showman that through the years has never forgotten how to work a crowd, or play the shit out of an acoustic guitar.

As the night is going on I'm singing along with everyone else there, but I'm also watching the crowd, and this is definitely not your "calm, cool, and collected" crowd. Nope, from the start things were heading Willie's way - things like roses, bandannas, pictures, hats, a glass of beer, a vest and a pair of breasts (yep - some lady flashed Willie, although I don't think he saw it, but I did). And you know, Willie had this great way of dispensing souvenirs back to the crowd because usually he would just don the headgear and then toss it back into the crowd for a lucky fan. This was a party crowd, this was a fun crowd, this was a Willie Nelson crowd.

While Willie was having fun with the crowd, he was also showing just what a talent he and his band are. Through the entire show we were treated to his classics, and many done in their traditional manner, but Willie also threw in some great surprises, like a bluesy version of the classic "Me and Bobby McGee," and he made "Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" a little peppier, keeping it as fresh and new as the day it came out. Then Willie and the band did reggae, yup, that's right, I said reggae. Low and behold a couple of great covers of some Jimmy Cliff tunes and now I'm hearing this country-reggae that shows Willie can truly cover just about anything.

Willie Photo 3
This night at the House of Blues taught me a couple of things. First and most importantly, - Willie Nelson has still got it. Backed by a talented band throwing country and rock jams in between classics and new material, this crowd was worked into a frenzy that I haven't seen in years, so much so that even after the curtain closed the crowd wouldn't stop asking for an encore. I'm going to give Willie the benefit of the doubt that he didn't hear the chants of "Willie, Willie" going on for about ten minutes after he left the stage, and not lessen his rating because I think he would have come back if he heard this pack of crazed fans. Second, and I'm still trying to figure this out, the next time I go see him I'm heading for the front row. Why? Because that's where all the young dudettes hang out. I'm up in the balcony looking down and trying to figure out exactly what Willie Nelson's got that I ain't got? I've got some grey hair, alright, Willie's in a little better shape than me, and I've been told I can carry a tune a little. Why are these girls showing their breasts, screaming "I Love You Willie", and just plain acting like they'd sleep with him at the drop of a hat. The only thing I can figure is its the pony-tails. So, I'm on a mission - no more haircuts for this dude - I'm going for the Willie Nelson look.

In the end, Willie Nelson showed that he can play guitar with the best of them, has a band of talent second to none, and still has a voice that can drive ladies of any age crazy and have the dudes singin' along for a couple of hours. Even though he didn't come out for that encore, I'm still assuming there's a decent reason, and I've got to give Willie Nelson and his band TWO HUGE THUMBS UP (and that one dudette would probably be adding a couple of breasts too). A great show and I definitely recommend you catch a Willie Nelson concert if you ever liked any of his songs.

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!


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