Willie Nelson & Family
@ St. Cloud Civic Center, February 18, 1998
By Rico Anderson

Well, the legend is back "On The Road Again". A last minute invitation by a promoter friend of mine got me out of town for a night. I had never seen Willie Nelson live before, so I thought it would be a fun chance to finally catch the show.

Rico & Willie
Photo © 1998 All rights reserved
I've always thought of Willie as a legendary country artist, but I have to say that I was very impressed. His whole show had the flavor of that '30's and '40's jazz era sound, but with a country twist. It was great. No opening act on this tour, just Willie & Family straight up. Backed by long time Family members; Paul English on drums, Jody Payne on guitar, sister Bobbie Nelson on piano, Mickey Raphael on harmonica and Paul's brother Billy English on bass (who's usually Paul's drum tech, but was filling in for the ill Bee Spears), Willie came out strong and had the full Civic Center crowd tapping their feet and singing along.

Paul English told me; "This is our first show in over 3 months, so we sounded pretty rusty. No practice, we're too old to practice anymore." Well, they didn't sound rusty at all to me. You can really tell that they are a true family. Paul is a great drummer. Jody took the mic once in awhile and had a great voice himself, sounding a little like Willie at times. Mickey is a great harp player, playing mostly low key in the background, but gets to cut loose once in awhile, especially on the couple of blues tunes that the band did. Bobbie was an excellent piano player and Billy English did a great job stepping up to fill in for Spears. Willie even grabbed the electric guitar to rip off a few leads during one of the blues numbers.

Willie Nelson & Family
Photo © 1998 All rights reserved
The band played one hit after another; "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain", "If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time", "Georgia On my Mind", "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys", "Always On My Mind", "Blue Skies", "Night Life", "City Of New Orleans", "Whiskey River", "Me And Bobby McGee" and "Me And Paul"; a funny story about a time Willie and Paul were stopped in an airport to be detained and then searched, just because they didn't look "quite right". Willie barely said thanks to the crowd before they started screaming for more, so the band never left the stage and Willie said; "This is the part where we usually leave the stage and come back, but we'll stay up here and play a few more for you". Once they finished again, the crowd was still not ready to leave, so they came back out for a second encore and this time "On The Road Again" knocked them dead. They were happy.

Any time Willie is in town, go see him, it's a great show, even if you don't think of yourself as a 'country' fan. Later, Paul told me a funny story about a recent show at the Chicago House Of Blues. Some very young fans came up to the band and said; "You old dudes rock". They took them backstage to get an autograph and when they walked them back out to their waiting friends, he heard one of them tell another; "Wow, it was really cool, there was some 'old dude' up there playing guitar and he was playing the song from The Dukes Of Hazzard". The 'old dude' was Waylon Jennings, he was backstage visiting with Willie and the boys.

This review is copyright © 1998 by Rico Anderson, all rights reserved.
E-Mail at: rico1@aol.com

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

Copyright © 1998 by Ray M. Stiles
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.