Photo Credit: Larson Sutton
Last night, the Outlaw Music Festival, the flagship multi-band tour headlined by the legendary Willie Nelson, rolled into the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass., hours after Tropical Storm Lee rolled out and left behind a picturesque evening for some exhilarating performances. Led by Nelson’s hour-long finale, the seven-hour event also showcased appearances by Waylon Payne, Los Lobos, The String Cheese Incident, and Bobby Weir and Wolf Bros featuring The Wolfpack. Entertaining the sold-out, venerable outdoor amphitheater, Nelson welcomed Weir and members of The String Cheese Incident for the show’s closing pair of classic songs, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “It’s Hard to Be Humble.”
The finale wasn’t the only collaboration of the event, with Nelson’s veteran harmonica player, Mickey Raphael, joining Los Lobos during their rocking 45-minute set. Notable was the appearance as the favorite sons of East L.A. are celebrating 50 years as a group. Prior to the Lobos, Payne opened the afternoon with a short, solo acoustic appearance- a candid and thoughtful 30 minutes–that detailed his recovery from substance addiction and his joy to be taking the place of his father, Jody, a longtime collaborator in Nelson’s ensemble.
Third on the bill, The String Cheese Incident ushered in the night sky, delivering a jam-heavy set that honored the birthday of the Incident’s singer and guitarist, Bill Nershi, and offered several cuts, including the title track, from the band’s latest album, Lend Me A Hand. Weir and his Wolf Bros followed with the festival’s longest set, clocking in at 90 minutes, and dazzling with plenty of nods to the repertoire of the Grateful Dead, opening with “Hell in a Bucket” and including a hushed “Peggy-O,” and an extended “Playing in the Band” that segued into “Dark Star.” Then, Weir’s Wolfpack arrived in full for an expansive “Cassidy” that brought the capacity crowd to its feet and kept them there for “Stella Blue” and the ultimate fitting final, “One More Saturday Night.”
Nelson strolled out to his own standing ovation, then sat with his five-piece Family band for a run of classics, starting with “Whiskey River” and working through the icon’s classic catalog. The Xfinity faithful, too, sang along with renditions of “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and Nelson’s immortal hit, “On the Road Again.” Flanked by Payne, who led a few numbers, including a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” Nelson only paused to thank his audience between songs, moving through the 20-song set at a crisp pace and tossing his hat and trademark red bandanas into the crowd following the last notes of the night.
The Outlaw Music Festival tour continues tonight with a stop at Forest Hills Stadium in New York City. For more information, visit this link.