Sunday, January 8, the entry line rolled around the block at the House of Blues, New Orleans. Everyone and their mama showed up to see the sold out Willie Nelson & Family. It was no surprise, either. The man has been musically active for over 60 years and has worked with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to Johnny Cash to Ray Charles to Snoop Dogg. He is a figurehead of outlaw country, he is an author, he has acted in over 30 films, he is an activist for biofuels, and he is one of America’s most beloved stoners.
He came to NOLA with his band “Family,” consisting of Billy and Paul English on drums, Mickey Raphael on harmonica, Kevin Smith on Bass, and Willie’s sister Bobbie Nelson on piano. Naturally, the house was packed and smelling quite funky. Hoops n’ hollers and ten gallon hats put a strain on the capacity of the House of Blues main room.
Willie & Family opened with “Whiskey River” and proceeded to play all the classics: “Crazy”, “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time,” “On The Road Again,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” “Always On My Mind.” And he of course played his newer hits, too. “Let’s play one for Merle,” he’d say as he began “It’s All Going to Pot.” And the crowd saluted as he sang, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” The show felt like it could have gone on forever, maybe it was something in the air, but it ended with a blast of white light and a chorus of young girls joined Willie on stage to sing “I’ll Fly Away” with the crowd.