I like Willie Nelson’s music , but I wasn’t interested when Ada asked me if I wanted to go to see him at the Hollywood Bowl . He’s too old , I thought . I listened to his Reggae album recently , too — bad news . Some guys should just retire .
I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of Willie . I’m not a big fan of any musician . Most music I like . Some I like more than others . I love Dylan , but he should retire , too . We heard him at the Bowl last year . Bad news . Some guys should just retire .
I remember Willie way back when he grew his hair long . It was in the America Love It Or Leave It days , the days when dirty long-hairs were un-American Commie traitor troublemakers . You ‘member those Vietnam War / anti-War protest days ? And then Willie grew his hair and swung his braids around proudly . Willie’s braids are underestimated in analyses of modern American history .
Did he still have his braids when I saw him last night at the Hollywood Bowl ? I’m not sure . We were way way up in the nosebleed section , almost as far up as it’s possible to get . There are four big screens nowadays to watch what’s happening on stage . Otherwise we see just a speck way down there on stage . It could be anyone down there , or no one . The sound’s good but the stage is too far away at night to know what goes on on it but for those big screens . But I still couldn’t be sure if he was still wearing those braids .
Lyle Lovett opened for Willie . Lyle had a large band with him that drowned Lyle out a little too much for my liking . But , Lyle’s music sounded great . That Lyle would be there was the reason that I signed on to go see Willie .
Willie opened with the accompaniment of the Hollywood Bowl symphony orchestra .
The orchestra sounded great . Very exquisitely silky symphonic philharmonic style . And Willie Nelson , up there on the monitors , plinking a note now and again on his worn guitar , sometimes even strumming a chord . Or two . Closeup of his well – used guitar , and his well-worn 80-year-0ld voice trying to sing melodies . ” This is my all time favorite , ” said Willie at one point , just before he slipped into a song about snowy winters in Vermont . Wasn’t Tony Bennett . Wasn’t Old Blue Eyes . Wasn’t Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme . Not Perry Como or Nat King Cole . Just Willie Nelson from Abbott, Texas , trying in futility to accompany the philharmonic collected crowd on their chairs with their music sheets in their black clothes and the maestro behind him .
When Willie grew his hair long America changed . Suddenly not all long-hairs were dirty hippie Commie Should-Leave-Its . All of a sudden , all of a sudden , long hair was neutralized as a political billy club. You going to accuse Willie Nelson of being un-American ? Until Charlie Manson came along later to take it again in another direction , long hair was suddenly o.k. , thanks to Willie Nelson .
Willie played so many tunes with the Bowl orchestra that I began to eye the exits , to plan our early escape . Ada said , ” This is what you were expecting , wasn’t it ? That’s why you didn’t want to come . ” No , not really . This was worse , the unfortunate pairing of a rough country western singer like Willie Nelson with a symphony —- what chance has the guy got ? He’s what ? , going to accompany the cello section with his old guitar ? The tuxedoed director was standing up there , too , waving his baton . Willie was desperately but pathetically pretending to be part of it . It was weird.
Finally , Willie told the orchestra to settle down . They sat back . Ada said even Willie Nelson was probably bored half to death , about to fall asleep , too . Willie then launched into ” Just roll me up and smoke me when I die “. He waved his arms and played his guitar . There he was ! He had suddenly shown up for his own concert ! He ( finally ) played a few songs without the beautifully inappropriate Bowl orchestra overwhelming before he quit . It was worth waiting for .