Reviews

Willie Nelson's Country Throwdown: 21 June 2011 - Red Rocks Amphitheater

Photo Credits: Matthew Speck

The smell of chewing tobacco, and the sight of cowboy hats and cut-off jean shorts were enough to make even the most weathered cowboy say something along the lines of, “Well, my God, this is a party”.

Randy Houser

Willie Nelson's Country Throwdown

City: Morrison, CO
Venue: Red Rocks Amphitheater
Date: 2011-06-21

Willie Nelson knows how to throw a party. That’s, of course, one of the many reasons why he’s stayed on top for so many years. Ever since he started to find success in the mid ‘50s, Nelson has continuously been one of the top names in country music – and, to be fair, pop culture as a whole. At this point, there is hardly reason to try and list his accomplishments in music because you’d inevitably leave one out, and even if you were able to name all of his musical feats, you’d still struggle to pinpoint everything else: his activism, his acting, his prose, his poetry. And even then, you’d definitely forget something else that is seemingly insignificant, like one of his nicknames, but that still defines a man who has been in the forefront of our world for more than 50 years. The Red Headed Stranger.

So when Willie Nelson puts his name on something - for instance, a nationwide tour of country music acts - you pay attention. If there’s a question in your mind, it should be “Willie Nelson is throwing a party, why wouldn’t I go?”. At Morrison, CO’s Red Rocks Amphitheater on Tuesday, the smell of chewing tobacco and the sight of cowboy hats and cut-off jean shorts were enough to make even the most weathered cowboy say something along the lines of, “Well, my God, this is a party”. From miles away you could taste the cheap beer and hear the clack of cowboy boots on cement.

The day was scheduled for a 3 pm kick start, though most of the crowd sauntered in sometime after the work day ended – about 5 or 6. But the sun was still bright, there was plenty of beer to go around, and by then only a few bands had played at the two smaller stages on the top platform of the amphitheater. The feeling that anything was missed by showing up late was far from being on anyone’s mind.

Even at 7 pm, when Randy Houser took the main stage, there were a lot of stragglers who hadn’t found their way to a seat. But Houser made short work of that, as he and his band turned the volume up just about as high as it would go. Houser does something that you might think a lot of country artists do – his music pays respect to classic country but still has that modern crunch. His set found energy in the walking bass with a shuffle, but was able to slow down without losing steam. With two impressive slide guitarists by his side, and a keyboardist who may or may not have doubled for Jason Lee at one point, Houser set the stage perfectly for the rest of the evening.

Jamey Johnson is a bulk of a man. His long hair and deathly stare are hard to miss, and on stage he easily catches your eye. But it’s his true country voice that really grabs you. It’s dark and deep but he’s not afraid to take it high once in a while, or get a little softer. His cover of Merle Haggard’s "Mama Tried" came just before his cover of Bob Seger’s "Turn the Page", and they both fit right into his repertoire – hard hitting country music with a sense of humility. His set started in daylight and ended in moonlight, but the dimming sun did not dull the crowd’s energy. It could have been the music or the gallons of beer that did it, but they were revved up for the main act.

Willie Nelson led his band – comprised of various artists from the day’s events – onto stage quickly, and dove right in without hesitation. It took a few songs for the band to tighten up, and at times it was questionable if they had even rehearsed together. A medley of “Funny How Time Sleeps Away”, “Crazy”, and “Night Life” hardly changed tempo or key, but you could tell the change in verse by the unforgettable lyrics. Slowly and surely though, they found the rhythm and were able to pull it together. The set, less than an hour long, comprised nearly all of Willie’s hits – from “Me and Paul” to “On the Road Again” and “Bloody Mary Morning” – but seemed far too rushed. His music needs time to settle before it builds, and unfortunately this time it was built before it settled. But even that is a testament to the man: despite the shortfalls, it was still a hell of a performance. The man can do whatever he wants with hardly any possibility of losing his stronghold. His still-fresh voice, even at the age of 78, and his timeless songs were enough to put a classic country end to a classic country day.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image