Willie Nelson & Family
January 10, 2011
Better than: Less notorious ways of living.
Welcome to life lessons with Willie Nelson and Family
. Tonight's lecture will be divided into seven themes. Please don't be afraid to speak very little to the assembled, swallow your lyrics, throw copious numbers of bandannas into the crowd, or stumble through many guitar solos during the performance. As you well know, these details are wholly irrelevant to the overall enjoyment of both tonight and life in general. Now prepare your alcohol and/or THC-enhanced study aids, and let's begin.
I. The Importance of Family
No, not the romantic kind -- though rest assured there'll be much more on that later. Here we mean the passing down of musical traditions, opportunities, and proclivities from father (Willie Nelson) to son (Lukas Nelson): the opening set by Lukas' brash blues-rock four-piece Promise of the Real
; the way Lukas' powerful tenor bears eerie resemblance to his father's; the trading of guitar solos during "Texas Flood" and "Rainy Day Blues"; and the way son steps back later on to give his father's hallowed tunes the quiet space they've earned. You may not want your babies to grow up to be cowboys, but fiery guitar players ain't so bad. And having a sister (Bobbie Nelson) who's good at the piano is pretty darn great also.
II. Value Icons
The face will appear first onstage between a black felt cowboy hat and a puffy black jacket. It will look like it was cut out of Mount Rushmore or the United States nickel. The white beard will be as you'd imagined. The wrinkled skin will seem eerily familiar. The long gray hair will drop in a waterfall mess, corralled into unruly braids. The face will don a red bandanna, and suddenly the memories of dozens of moments of your life will return in a flash. This face is more than just another human countenance, it is an icon, and your reaction to it, as to all icons, depends on how you got here and is totally out of your control.
III. Drink a Very Large Amount of Whiskey
Take your whiskey as a river to start, as the legends Willie and Waylon do -- and let the river not run dry, because it, along with a giant Texas flag, is a great way to make the the crowd happy. (We know it sounds strange that this combination works in San Francisco, but trust us: it does.) The masses will raise their cups to your whiskey refrains, even if most of those cups are filled with beer. (Beer, you will later inform them, is for horses; whiskey is for men.) Eventually, tell stories of your whiskey conquests: how you traveled the nation studying life with your drummer, Paul, and how one night in Buffalo you got so drunk on the stuff you don't remember whether you played or not. In sum: whiskey is how legends are made.
IV. Love That Woman
Sing: She is good-hearted, even though you are good-timing. She is an angel flying too close to the ground. She is always on your mind, even though you didn't treat her good. (You will make the couples hug with this stuff. Keep it up -- they love it.)
V. Enjoy General Mischief
Ruminations on the nature of night life ("it ain't no good life, but it's my life") will be duly appreciated. Give a nod to your forefathers, Hank Williams especially, and recall your big fun on the bayou, your taste for jambalaya. (Your fans know the words.) Then tell us how you fear what you will do when you get drunk, even though you know what that is. (We more fear your arrest for marijuana possession -- a free Willie is good for the world.) Then get on the road again.
VI. End Bad Love, Fly to Houston, Drink More
It wasn't all going to work out. There's no use pretending you didn't have your share of bad loves and bloody mary mornings -- of seeing blue eyes crying in the rain. Spill it all. You lay it out simply enough; we all can relate.
VII. Remind Everyone That You're Going To Die One Day
Georgia will be on your longing mind. Rain will be falling all day on your window pane. It will be nobody's fault but yours, and this heavy truth will ring out in a haunting harmonica solo that leaves your witnesses howling. But there are always those healing hands of time. Finally, one day, you'll see the Hearse coming, you'll die, and you'll fly away. We may not want to hear this reminder, but it will be deeply appreciated.
VIII. Postscript: How To Be Immortal
The warm voice and those deep dark eyes are hard enough to forget, especially when they bend into a smile that seems impossibly genuine. Point this smile at everyone you see, and, while you're at it, throw a few more bandannas in the crowd. Take off on another guitar solo with your battered instrument, Trigger, and if your timing is off, or your fingers do not do as you want, we will happily forgive. (We heard your story about the hand surgery and the song you wrote about not being Superman.) Rest assured that, though your time is long, so is the line of posters you leave on the wall of this concert venue, and so is the run of shows you will play there this week. The young people still come to see you, and they, like the older ones, leave drunk, happy, and appreciative of the infamous irreverence you have taught here tonight.