At 89, Willie Nelson sits on stage these days.
And with little sister Bobbie having gone over yonder, the Family Band is down to Willie; son Micah (aka the Particle Kid) Nelson on second acoustic guitar; Mickey Raphael on harmonica; upright bass; and a single snare drum.
The setlist has changed, too. Gone are Bobbie’s showcase, “Down Yonder,” “Crazy,” “Nightlife” and others. In are “Bloody Mary Morning,” “Write Your Own Songs,” “Stay a Little Longer,” “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” and “I’ll Love You Til the Day I Die.”
Despite the changes, Nelson needs no teleprompter. And he’s moved into the modern era, using projected images of trains and churches and joints and bullshit meters to illustrate his songs, rather than relying exclusively on Texan and American flags as in the past.
This was the new-look and -sound setup Nelson brought to the Ohio State Fair’s Celeste Center on Aug. 5, where a sell-out crowd gave him standing ovations for walking on and off stage and where as many dudes tried to look like the star as women emulate Stevie Nicks at Fleetwood Mac shows.
The concert was just 65 minutes. But Nelson worked hard, playing his iconic, behind-the-beat solos on Trigger and singing nearly every song save for when Micah took the lead on “Die When I’m High (Halfway to Heaven),” “Everything is Bullshit” and “I Thought about You, Lord.” Willie, full of fatherly pride, smiled brightly, sung harmony and let his boy be the star in these moments.
Some things have not changed, however. Willie sung Hank (“Move it on Over,” “I Saw the Light”); the opener, Noah Guthrie, came on stage for “Will the Circle be Unbroken;” and Willie urged Micah and his fans to “Roll Me up and Smoke Me When I Die,” which everyone hopes will be a long time from now.