Concert Review: The Return of Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson makes a point at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, NY on September 14 (photo by CelebStoner).

Despite the increase in Covid cases, live concerts are back, and so is Willie Nelson, who's currently making up a bunch of shows that were canceled last year.  CelebStoner was at his latest stop: Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown, New Jersey on September 14.

Entry required proof of vaccination and masks. Nelson's older crowd was quick to comply.

Nelson tours with a sextet, Half are family members - Nelson, his older sister Bobbie on piano and orange-haired son Micah. Harmonica player Mickey Raphael, bassist Kevin Smith and drummer Billy English round out the band. Sometimes Micah's brother Lukas plays guitar alongside his father, but Lukas is currently on tour with his band Promise of the Real.

"It appears the Covid downtime has provided Nelson with renewed vigor." 

Nelson predictably opened with "Whiskey River." It's the Johnny Bush song Nelson had a modest country hit with in 1973. "Whiskey River, don't run dry," he sang. "You've all I got, take care of me."

Of course, Nelson has long preferred cannabis to alcohol. He nodded in that direction with a version of his boisterous "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Do."

Nelson delivered the hits in rapid fashion: "Crazy," "You're Always on My Mind," "Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "Funny How Time Slips Away" and "On the Road Again." He segued from "Crazy" into "Night Life," another Nelson oldie that dates back to 1963, soloing vigorously on his trusty accoustic guitar, Trigger.

Now 88, Nelson was in good voice and his guitar playing was rhythmic and stellar. Micah, also on guitar, pitched in a couple of numbers, including "Everything Is Bullshit," which Nelson chimed in on. Sister Bobbie played some ragtime, Raphael contributed numerous tight harp solos and the rhythm section cooked at various tempos. 

How long Nelson will be able to make the rounds touring America in his famous bus is unclear. It appears the Covid downtime has provided him with renewed vigor. 

Willie Nelson and his band will be headlining Farm Aid on September 25. (Photo by CelebStoner)


Upcoming Shows

From September 17-24, Nelson is headlining the Outlaw Music Festival with Sturgill Simpson, Gov't Mule, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Kathleen Edwards. The dates are:

• 9/17 - Virginia Beach, VA

• 9/18 - Raliegh, NC

• 9/19 - Charlotte, NC

• 9/22 - Alpharetta, CA

• 9/24 - Columbia, MD

Farm Aid is scheduled for September 25 in Hartford, Connecticut. 


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.