Oh what a night. February 14, 2011. Austin Icon and musical legend Willie Nelson took the stage to open the new ACL Live Moody Theater. It was a love fest- a valentine from Nelson returned by the crowd. In 1976 Nelson kicked off the first season of Austin City Limits so there was really no debate as to who should open the new venue. 35 years later he did not disappoint. The first set featured a 40 piece orchestra as Nelson appropriately crooned Ain’t it Funny How Time Slips Away. His version of The Healing Hands of Time was frankly spiritual.The second set found Nelson onstage with just four band members including sister Bobbie and veteran drummer Paul English (of Me and Paul) Although there is no way Nelson could possibly cover all of his 2500 songs from 300 albums his selections were wide ranging from beautiful ballads to raucous good old boy tunes. I soaked up each and every song including my personal favorites- Nightlife, Crazy, and Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. Encouraged by Nelson,the crowd sang along most of the night especially with On the Road Again, Good Hearted Woman and Mommas Don’t let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys. When he wrapped with I Saw the Light the entire sold-out crowd was on their feet.The sound was perfect, the venue impressive and for one night I was part of a piece of Austin history. A new chapter began with this performance and for those to follow all I can say is you have a lot to live up to.
If you missed the evening there is a recording of all 26 songs, Willie Nelson Live in Austin, for sale at www.willienelsonshop.com