Willie Nelson Gets His Wings

The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan, July 26

shutterstock_155979035With the first strains of “Whiskey River,” an enormous Texas flag unfurled behind the band, and Willie Nelson was off. In 70 minutes, he played 25 songs. There was no stage chatter and hardly any room to breathe. It made for an exhilarating ride, but there was never quite enough time to settle into the feeling of any one song before it was on to the next. “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” was one exception; perhaps because it was newer? Then again, who can blame an 82-year-old for a fast show?

Age has only seemed to improve Willie’s performance. His thin, haggard appearance adds even more authenticity to his outlaw country style. Time has given his voice an extra twang and his sad songs an extra gravitas. To belabor the point: He’s been singing “Funny How Time Slips Away” for more than 50 years. The band was fantastic, Willie’s guitar is still on point and daughter Amy even made a cameo, harmonizing with her father.

The show concluded with a gospel medley that was uniquely Willie. He combined old-timey salvation standards with “It’s All Going to Pot” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” It made for an exquisite country catharsis: Just keep the music playin’/That’ll be a good goodbye/Roll me up and smoke me when I die. ★★★★✩

Set List

Whiskey River
Beer For My Horses
Good Hearted Woman (Waylon Jennings cover)
Funny How Time Slips Away
Night Life
Down Yonder
Me and Paul
If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time
Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys (Waylon Jennings cover)
Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground
On the Road Again
Always on My Mind
Jambalaya (On the Bayou) (Hank Williams cover)
Hey Good Lookin’ (Hank Williams cover)
Move it On Over (Hank Williams cover)
Nuages (Django Reinhardt cover)
Georgia on a Fast Train (Billy Joe Shaver cover)
Georgia On My Mind

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