Country music legend Willie Nelson was back in Atlanta on Sunday night providing his audience in a packed Tabernacle with an evening of great music that highlighted his own rich songwriting tradition and demonstrated his considerable respect and affection for other musicians that have influenced him through the years.
The set started with Nelson's own "Whiskey River" and finished some 90 minutes later with Hank Williams "I saw the Light" which brought the audience to their feet as they joined in with the chorus. Between those two standards, Willie Nelson played a lot of his own music, some Hank Williams music and a lot of other artists music
The stage was bare with a black backdrop and while there were the obligatory spotlights it was clear that the focus and attention should be on the music. Willie Nelson did not disappoint mixing in songs with high energy like "Roll me up and smoke me when I die", "Me and Paul" or "Mama's don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys" with his ballads like "Crazy" and "Blue eyes crying in the rain." He delighted the crowd with his acknowledgement of where he was playing with "Georgia on my mind" and "Fast train to Georgia".
Hank Williams' music featured prominently as Nelson clearly enjoyed putting his slant on such Williams standards as "Jambalaya", "Hey, good lookin", "I'll fly away" and "Move it on over" while he also played music made famous by Gene Autry, Carl Perkins and Irving Berlin.
He and his son, Lukas, played "Texas flood", a blues standard by fellow Austin Texas native, Stevie Ray Vaughn. Other ever-present members of the band contributed significantly to the evening's great music but none more so than Mickey Raphael, the harmonica player whose talents were evident all night long but most significantly on Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance."
It was a great evening of live music entertainment that allowed Willie Nelson to pay homage to some of the music he has enjoyed playing over the years and it was a great evening of live music entertainment that allowed the audience to pay homage to one of music's living legends.