There’s no perfect way to describe what it feels like to be in the presence of a legend. When Willie Nelson took the stage at the Venetian Theatre on February 1, every frenetic strum of his guitar, every quiver in his time-worn voice and every call-out to his adoring audience carried the weight of his 60-some years as an outlaw-country icon.
Backed by the Texas flag and a five-piece band—until his youngest daughter, Amy, joined him to sing a few songs later in the show—Nelson’s rootsy style cut a striking figure in the plush venue where Phantom—The Las Vegas Spectacular was staged more than 2,600 times. The resulting contrast intensified the intimacy of the concert, and Nelson made up for canceling previously scheduled shows here by rambling through “Whiskey River,” “Beer for My Horses,” “On the Road Again,” “Always on My Mind,” and more of his hits.
He gave the spotlight to Mickey Raphael (harmonica) and sister Bobbie Nelson (piano) at times, played favorites by Merle Haggard and Hank Williams and dipped into forthcoming album God’s Problem Child with new track “Still Not Dead Again Today”; its opening lines—“I woke up still not dead again today/The Internet said I had passed away”—earned an excited roar from the crowd, which couldn’t get enough Willie.