July 22, 2015

Willie Nelson & Family ~ July 22, 2015 @ The Santa Barbara Bowl

An American Story


Country music is an American heritage and Willie Nelson is one of the most recognizable American Icons. At the young age of 82, Willie Nelson & Family performed for a sold out Santa Barbara Bowl. Along with Alison Krauss & Union Station, they successfully brought true American Country music to our fine city.

Country music has a reputation for being sad, with songs usually about your love leaving, your truck breaking down, or your dog dying. It has simple harmonies, played on a variety of stringed instruments, and sung with a bit of a twang. It’s what country life is about. And as Alison Krauss & Union Station kicked off into their set, it was obvious that there wasn’t going to be a dry eye in the house by the end of it.

With a voice of an angel, Alison sung of heartbreak and despair that gripped your heart. Accompanied by her band of talented stringed musicians, Alison Kraus & Union Station exemplified all that is right with Country music. “We don’t want anyone to leave feeling good,” explained Alison, while bantering with the crowd between heartbreaking songs.  The bantering between band members, some of whom have played together for over 20 years, was stand-up worthy and a nice contrast to the melancholy songs.  

The Santa Barbara Bowl begun to fill up as a cool breeze blew in off the ocean, relieving the humidity held in by the day. Near me sat Dorothy, a 91-year old Santa Barbara resident that has seen Willie Nelson fifty times so far. Dorothy explained, “Willie is a wonderful performer. You know his sister Bobby plays the piano and his kids come out and play with him too. Now it’s the Family – it didn’t used to be that way. They’re great.” And Dorothy did not lie.

The Lone-Star State flag flew over a simple set as Willie Nelson & Family took to the Santa Barbara Bowl stage. Willie immediately broke into “Whiskey River,” bringing the older crowd to their feet. At 82, Willie still plays the guitar at a pace most young men could not keep up. His voice strong and stamina high, he took no breaks as he whisked from one song to the next. Crowd participation was required for many of his tunes. As Willie sung “whiskey for my men,” and pointed at the crowd, the crowd replied “beer for my horses” during his rendition of the amply named song “Beer For My Horses.” 

Little Sister, as Willie liked to refer to Bobby, played the piano fiercely. At the age of 84, Bobby slinked over the keys and played speedy solos that brought cheers from the crowd. Willie Nelson & Family quickly played all the hits in an hour and fifteen minutes. Playing classics like “On The Road Again,” Hank William’s “Maybe I Didn’t Love You,” and “Stardust.” “That’s a lovely song,” exclaimed Dorothy as Willie finished a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy For Feeling So Lonely.”


As the evening came to an end, Willie called out more of his family members to the stage, thanking them all. What a great legacy, what a great American story.