Last night I had the opportunity to watch the legendary Willie Nelson live in concert. On a beautiful Missoula summer evening in a baseball stadium filled with fans packing the stands and the field, the atmosphere could not have been better. I want to preface this post by saying this is not a review of the concert. Because I am not a real fan of Willie Nelson’s music to begin with and because I feel you have to remember the whole concert to give a decent review, I am not acting as a critic in this post. Rather, I am going to tell you about my experience…and boy was it an experience.
I went to the concert with my good friend, Nick. The concert was held at Ogren Park, the baseball stadium that is home to the Missoula Osprey, the minor league baseball team I love so much. They do not have a lot of parking available so the concert organizers implemented a shuttle system for the event. They had a few different locations throughout downtown Missoula. Nick and I went to the location on Ryman Street. After about ten minutes of waiting a yellow school bus pulled up to the curb and the door swung open and right away our noses were assaulted with marijuana smoke. Ahhh yes, such a glamorous shuttle service. We got on the packed bus that was full of people who looked exactly like the petitioners I blogged about a month ago and we were on our way. Although it was only a 5 minute ride I was so thankful to get off as I was starting to get sick from the combination of the sizzling hot bus and the awful smell of body odor and weed mixed together.
We got into the stadium, got our drinks, and then went and sat down in the first row of the stands on the third base side. Willie’s opening act was Lyle Lovett and His Big Band. Now Lyle Lovett is another artist who I do not particularly care for. Probably the thing that stood out to me the most from his set was that Lyle and his band all wore suits on stage when it was about ninety degrees out. If you ask me, I thought it was ridiculous but whatever. As you can tell, he did not impress me too much. When you go to a concert where you are not very interested in the act, especially the opening act, you usually do two things. First, you drink. And I mean you drink quite a bit because you should do whatever you can to make the music sound kind of good. Second, you people watch. Let me tell you, the quality of people watching was at an all time high last night. I swear Wal-Mart had a shuttle service as well because some of the talent that was brought to that ballpark last night was out of this world. Actually, this is not even being fair to Wal-Mart. Some of the people who showed up to the concert last night looked like they had just crawled out of a swamp. It was very, very interesting. Nick and I played the “your team” game the whole Lyle Lovett set.
After Lyle finally got off the stage Nick and I went on the field and we lined the fence that cut off the general public because on the other side was the path that the acts took to the stage. As we were standing there, some old guy dressed funny was walking down the path looking up at the sky (a lightning storm had started to surround the stadium). Because he looked so confused and concerned I yelled out at him “WELCOME TO MISSOULA.” He looked over at us right away and slowly walked over to us. I didn’t know exactly what he was going to do, I did not know if he took my welcome greeting the wrong way, perhaps sensing some sarcasm in it. He finally approached us and extended his hand and said, “Howdy, you guys ready for a concert?” It was Willie Nelson’s bass player!! He talked to us for about twenty minutes as we waited for Willie to come out. Of course he was looking up at the sky because he wanted to make sure they were not going to get rained on and that the lightning was not too close. He answered everything we asked and I was rattling off questions like no other. I asked him what Willie was doing at that very point of time, asked him about groupies, asked him how it was traveling on the bus, asked him if he had any crazy stories on the road (he did), asked him what he thought of Missoula, etc. I actually felt a little bad for him because they got into Missoula on Monday night (concert was Tuesday) and he said after they checked into the Holiday Inn (classy) he said they went bar hopping in downtown Missoula and each bar they went to “had a 15 to 1 guy to girl ratio”….he was not impressed. But he did say Missoula was a beautiful town.
Suddenly Willie Nelson’s tour bus came onto the field from behind the outfield wall and cruised up to a few feet of the stage. So much for him walking right by me. He exited the bus and then slowly walked up onto the stage. He then started to perform right away. Now it seems like everyone who went to the concert last night said that Willie sounded great and put on an awesome show. To be honest, I thought he sounded okay and thought that his ninety minute performance was pretty average. But I said I was not going to be a critic in this post, sorry. It really didn’t matter though because I was having a great time. Even though I am not a huge Willie Nelson fan and even though I had no real desire to swim through a predominately hostile hippie crowd, I decided to anyways. Aiding in my motivation to do so was of course the numerous Shock Tops I had consumed and a really sweet/cute girl who I had met in the crowd. This girl asked if I wanted to try to go up to the front of the stage …yes please! I turned into the biggest bush leaguer in the joint. I was plowing through bodies and doing Reggie Bush type moves while tagging my new friend behind me. I got flipped off, I got cussed at, one guy even spat at me (I let him know what I thought about that). Someone working concert security even told me to move back when we were about ten feet away from the stage. I told him I was part of the Willie Nelson Fan Club….he didn’t care. We took a few steps back but then continued our assault up to the stage. You know what?? We made it!
Willie Nelson looks very old. Drug use, life on the road, and his crazy lifestyle made him look every bit of his seventy-eight years up close. I give it to him though, performing when you are seventy-eight is amazing. Willie sang “Beer For My Horses” without obviously Toby Keith. I thought it was a bad idea and once you heard it you would have too. He sang “On the Road Again” which was cool. And he of course sang a whole bunch of other songs that I had never heard and really have no interest of hearing again. Let me say real fast that I am a HUGE country music fan. But I am into contemporary country. Country music purists scoff at me and call me soft but I am just not into the Willie Nelsons, Lyle Lovetts, Johnny Cashs, etc. (don’t know if I should Cashes or Cashs). Maybe I should give them more of a chance.
Willie Nelson did not banter with the crowd too much. In my opinion, he was much more concerned about playing his set and getting back on the road. That was fine with me.