Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Whiskey River

Willie Nelson
The Fillmore, San Francisco
January 20, 2009

It was appropriate to be seeing Willie on the Inauguration Day of the first President of the United States to publicly declare that he's gotten high. If you missed it, Obama discussed his drug use as a teen in one of his books, and then appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and had the following exchange with Leno:

Leno: "Remember, Senator, you are under oath. Did you inhale?"
Obama: "That was the point."

A new day is dawning in America... and it's 4:20 at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Being from the Bay Area I did not grow up with Old Country music, but I grew to appreciate it some years back when I was obsessed with Alt-Country bands like Uncle Tupelo. A friend once described seeing Willie as "frustrating".. and I tend to agree.. His meandering, jammy onstage style isn't my thing. However, his songwriting legacy is without question and with the passing of so many old heroes recently I got off my ass to see Willie this time around.

It was appropriate that my platonic bro date for the evening was The Drummer, who is a native of the great state of Kentucky. You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy.

At just past 9:00PM the houselights slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) went down and the band entered from the backstage area on stage right... Then Willie sauntered in from Geary Blvd. via the door at stage left; it was a funny entrance. I imagined Willie had been taking a nap on the tour bus and was basically hitting the stage running, as much as a 75-year old man can hit the stage running!

Willie and the band launched straight into 'Whiskey River' and for the next 90 minutes seemingly played all the hits ('Crazy', 'Bloody Mary Morning', 'Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain', 'On The Road Again'...) and even dropped 'Me And Paul' into the middle of the set.

Yes, Willie was in classic meandering, jammy form... sometimes singing off-key as well.. but his charisma and magnetism were still infectious. His nod to Waylon (R.I.P.) with 'Good Hearted Woman' was nice, but my fave of the set was 'City Of New Orleans' because, for some reason, the song had been going through my head all day as I watched The Inauguration.

This was the final night of Willie's sold out 5-night run in S.F. and it was cool to see The Fillmore decked out to celebrate Inauguration Day, with a big American flag behind the main bar and red, white, and blue bunting and balloons decorating the upstairs balconies and stage. Willie acknowledged the historic day by saying "It's time to take back this country.." and then played a song called 'Peaceful Solution' that he co-wrote with his daughter, who also joined him onstage to sing. To top it off, the standard giveaway Fillmore poster for the evening was a special "Inauguration Celebration" one that differed from the poster given out on the previous 4 nights. Nice. Dog Bless America!

I was wondering what kind of crowd Willie would draw on a Tuesday night... The sold out house was mostly enthusiastic and, because it was a school night, not very drunk at all.. However, a noticeable number of attendees were the short attention span types who talked loudly during songs. Why the fuck would you pay to attend a concert and then not pay any attention to the performance?? Idiots..

THANKS to The Man for sorting my +1 for the evening.

Number of Hell's Angels = 2. I wasn't in the mood to do a merch audit, but my educated guess is that if you bought one of every Willie merch item you would have paid around $300. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. Here's to the upcoming 8 years of the Obama Administration and, in the spirit of his call for public service, don't bogart the joint, dude!

"Good morning America, how are you?"