concert reviews

Willie Nelson at the Patriot Center, Fairfax, VA, Wednesday 9 November 2005

Willie Nelson's show at the Patriot Center on Wednesday night contained few surprises. The country singer sported his trademark long silver-haired braids and spent half of the evening in a cowboy hat and half with his signature bandanna tied around his head. A giant Texas flag unfurled at the back of the stage during his opening song, "Whiskey River," a tune he reprised 90 minutes later.

Nor was Nelson's choice of songs unexpected. In addition to his own well-known tunes ("Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "Beer for My Horses"), Nelson played a few numbers written by his Highwaymen band mates: Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" and Waylon Jennings's "Good Hearted Woman." In fact, the biggest surprise of his set was that he didn't play anything from his latest album, the reggae collection "Countryman."

Still, Nelson's performance was fairly engaging. His guitar solo on "Always on My Mind" delivered the emotions that his voice's tinny timbre didn't, and his five-piece backing band's instrumentation on "All of Me" was so beautifully unstructured, it sounded improvised. Nelson seemed almost afraid of the mike, often singing so far from it that his voice blended into his band's accompaniment. He rarely paused to speak, jumping from one tune to the next with little room for audience applause. But despite this apparent shyness, pieces such as "Me and Paul," a song about road adventures with his longtime drummer, exposed Nelson's fun-loving personality.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 12 November 2005, Page C05
.: Selected discography: Countryman (Willie Nelson, 2005); The Essential Willie Nelson Box Set (Willie Nelson, 2003); Spirit (Willie Nelson, 1996); The Road Goes on Forever (the Highwaymen, 1995 r:2005); Red Headed Stranger (Willie Nelson, 1975).