Erin and I saw Willie Nelson perform at Edgefield in Troutdale last night. I feel blessed to have been there; you never know when it might be the last time. Not to be morbid, but the man’s 84 years old…and looks every day of it. I don’t think he’d take issue with the argument that he’s living on borrowed time. Then again, every day he wakes up not dead is a good day (as it should be for all of us), right?
We saw him five years ago, and on that evening he seemed every bit of his then 79 years- tired, worn out, and just barely hanging on. He moved slowly, and it took almost half the show for his voice to warm up. On that evening, it was easy to feel as if it might well have been the last time I’d be able to see him. Last night, though, he came out energetic, lively, and engaged. He played for 70 minutes with no encore, but when you’re 84, no one should have a problem with that.
He may be in the midst of his ninth decade, but if all you did was watch him play the guitar you’d never know it. He did everything short of making Trigger ask for a beer.
We were fortunate enough to have seats 11 rows from the stage, and if last night was the last time we see him perform, at least we were up close and personal.
Much of the appeal for me is the more than half-century of musical history Willie represents. He’s outlasted his contemporaries, and though his voice isn’t as polished as it once was, his stage presence is undeniable. Perhaps it’s the bales of weed he’s smoked over the years. Whatever the reason, that he’s still touring and performing is impressive.
I once listened to an interview in which someone asked him when he planned to retire. His response was classic Willie: “Son, there are only two things I love to do- make music and play golf. Which do you suggest I give up?” At 84, I think he deserves a free pass to indulge in as much of either as he chooses.
The other aspect of what’s become Willie, Inc., is the amount of merchandise moved at his shows. No one seemed to balk at the $55 t-shirts (I felt lucky to get one for $45), the $15 stickers, or the $40 hats. I don’t even want to know how much the posters were going for. It would be easy to argue that a Willie Nelson concert is a vehicle for selling thousands upon thousands of dollars of merchandise…and I heard not a discouraging word about that.
I lived in Texas for 10 years and had numerous opportunities to see Willie in concert. For some reason, it never seemed to happen, and it wasn’t until I moved back to Portland that I was able to get to one of his shows. At this point, it would be easy to wonder if he might not outlast me.
Hey, when you wake up not dead each morning, you should be able to do what makes you happy.
In a world marred by so much anger, hatred, and divisiveness, Willie Nelson stands out as a spokesman for peace, love, and understanding. Even the one person in the crowd wearing “Make America Great Again” hat seemed to understand that…which was exactly as it should have been.