Willie Nelson rolled into New York on September 11 headlining the Outlaw Music Festival. On the somber day of remembrance, Nelson and the other bands on the bill perked up the crowd with a day full of upbeat country music.
Nelson was just back on the road after canceling six shows in August due to a breathing problem. The Texas-born troubador is 86 years old.
The Outlaw Music Festival usually includes at least three other bands, plus Nelson's. The tour, which began on June 14, brought Nelson & Family, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Alison Krauss and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (POTR) to Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY.
Lukas is Nelson's guitar-playing son. He opened the show and closed it playing with his formidible father. Lukas is quite the axe man, plus he writes and sings his own material. The highlight of his short set was a tribute to Woodstock, a version of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's "Carry On." When he's not busy touring with Willie, Lukas and POTR are Neil Young's back-up band.
Fiddle player and singer Krauss has one of the greatest voices in country and one of the best bands, a sextet of pickers and a capella singers that range in style from bluegrass to Western Swing. She broke out a number of covers as well, including John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" (a hit for Glen Campbell in 1967) and "Baby, Now That I've Found You," also a 1967 hit for the Foundations.
Rateliff's set was short on covers and thick with hits, like "Don't Worry Me," "Hey Mama," "A Little Honey" and closer "S.O.B." The country jammers came back and joined Nelson toward the end of his set.
With the long day of music, Nelson offered a more truncatred set of his classics, opening with "Whiskey River" and "Still Is Still Moving," following with "Good Hearted Woman" and the appropriate "On the Road Again" and finishing with "Always on My Mind" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." He skipped "Crazy" and "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die," but did perform "We're All Going to Pot" as a tribute to Merl Haggard.
9/13 The Mann Center, Philadelphia, PA: Willie & Family, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, Gov't Mule, Cris Jacobs
9/14 Veteran Union Home Loans Amphtheatre, Virginia Beach, VA: Willie & Family, Bonnie Raitt, the Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Lukas & POTR, Last Bison
9/15 Coastal Credit Union Music Park, Raleigh, NC: Willie & Family, Bonnie Raitt, Alison Krauss, Lukas & POTR, Stephanie Quayle
9/20 Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center, Indianapolis, IN: Willie & Family, Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters, Alison Krauss, Brother Osbourne, Katie Pruitt
**9/21 FARM AID, Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI: Willie & Family, Neil Young, John Mellancamp, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Bonnie Raitt, Luke Combs, Nathaniel Ratliff & the Night Sweats, Lukas Nelson & POTR, Margo Price, Jamey Johnson, Tanya Tucker, Brothers Osbourne, Particle Kid & more
9/22 Riverbend Music Center, Cincinnati, OH: Willie & Family, Bonnie Raitt, Luke Combs, Brothers Osborne, Derek Alan Band
All photos by Cheyenne Bosco