Film Reviews

Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings – Live At The U.S. Festival (Shout! Factory)

These two DVD’s presumably represent the first of several live performances in 1983 of several daylong musical concerts arranged and underwritten by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.  He also arranged for a concurrent hi-tech expo at the Glen Helen Regional Park in San Bernadino, CA where he funded the construction of a new outdoor performance venue.  Beginning in late May one day was devoted to New Wave music followed by a day for Heavy Metal along with a day for Rock.  In early June, the Country music day featured sets by The Thrasher Brothers, Ricky Scaggs, Hank Williams Jr., Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Alabama, Riders in The Sky, and culminating with the headliner for the day, Willie Nelson.

Jennings’ set of 22 songs included many of his hits along with a duet with his wife Jessi Colter on her hit version of “Storms Never Last” which she also wrote.

As always, Jennings did a superb job on songs known to be his favorites such as “Amanda” and  “I’ve Always Been Crazy.”  In general, he appeared somewhat disheveled, perfunctory and even spacey at times during the performance.  A brief news media interview recorded before the performance was not additive.  On the other hand, a serendipitous highlight was the inordinate amount of close up camera focus on his quintessential pedal steel player Ralph Mooney so that any fan of the instrument would be thrilled to have the front row seat to see Mooney work up close and personal!

Nelson’s set of 22 songs also covered most of his hits with Jennings joining him for “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” and “Good Hearted Woman.”  Nelson indulged in displaying some of his considerable guitar artistry with “Trigger” on his traditional opening song of “Whiskey River” and later in the concert on “Bloody Mary Morning” which morphed into a six minute jam.

Nelson’s unique phrasing and relaxed delivery always delivers when he is surrounded by sister Bobbie on piano, longtime drummer Paul English and the ever present Mickey Raphael with his ever present harmonica.  His final set seemed the perfect wrap to full day of fun in the sun accompanied by major country music headliners!

–Scott Peavler

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