Willie Nelson and his family shared the best of his golden oldies inside Travis County Exposition Center to a sold out crowd opening night of the 2015 Rodeo Austin on March 14. For a solid hour, Willie proved 80-years young and sang several medleys created from hits off his 68 studio, ten live, 37 compilation and 27 collaborative albums, including “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.”
As always, his sister Bobbie Nelson played piano, joined by two of Willie’s kids, Lukas Nelson and Amy Nelson; two grandchildren, Zach Thomas and Rebecca Thomas; and Waylon Payne, the son of the late Sammi Smith. On stage together, they sang a medley of hymns such as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” and “I’ll Fly Away.” Band members included harmonica player Mickey Raphael, drummer Billy English and upright bassist Kevin Smith.
Lukas Nelson provided the night’s biggest surprise with a rhythm and blues solo on “Texas Flood.” Like father, like son, Lukas added his own improvised and distinctive guitar leads and vocals to a song that once served as part of the repertoire of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. Playing Trigger, his ever-faithful acoustic guitar, Willie performed “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” the hit off his 2012 Heroes album.
As the evening ended, the legacy of songs, like gifts delivered by three generations of the Nelson family, resonated long after the dust cleared.
– Donna Marie Miller