Some might say that bringing Willie Nelson back for an 18th Austin City Limits taping is just another night in Austin. But for all who attended or watched the live stream from home, it was very clear from the moment Willie stepped on to the stage, we were all witnesses to something very special.
Quite frankly, I cherish and value every single opportunity I’ve had to see this music legend perform. Regardless of whether or not the setlist changes, there’s just something remarkable just being in the same room with this man. We love and sing along to each of his classic songs, take in his familiar mannerisms, and watch as lucky fans in the front rows catch his trademark bandanas. Having grown up with parents who often listened to Willie Nelson’s music, I didn’t truly come to appreciate him until moving to Austin over a decade ago. Listening to Willie on tape or vinyl is clearly not the same as experiencing Willie first hand. From watching him interact with his sister Bobbie at the piano, bassist Kevin Smith, Paul and Billy English, Mickey Raphael, and his sons Micah and Lukas, I feel blessed to have gotten to witness his love for music family. Perhaps because Willie’s vocals sometimes need a break, crowd participation is a must during all Willie concerts. Fans are encouraged to call out during classic hits like “On The Road Again” and “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” and we are all quickly made to feel like we are a part of the family.
For many reasons including today’s political climate, many of us need Willie to help us keep our sanity. Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, he continues to demonstrate and express his views with the utmost grace and class. No matter your political leanings, music has always been the magic that brings everyone together.
The Moody Theater erupted into a standing ovation as the taping ended with “I’ll Fly Away.” Willie smiled and waved farewell and despite being sad that it was over, I look forward to the next opportunity to see this incredible music legend perform.