Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Willie Nelson at the Backyard

Willie Nelson Poster

On Saturday we went to the Backyard to hear Willie Nelson. I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve always wanted to see Willie play and now I am complete. Watching a show under the big oak trees at the Backyard is always a great experience and Saturday night was no exception. Despite a forecast for rain, the weather was quite nice: cool and overcast but not too humid.

Willie opened with “Whiskey River,” a perfect set opener if ever there was one. He spent most of the evening playing familiar classics including “All of Me,” “On the Road Again,” “Still is Still Moving to Me,” and my personal favorites “Me and Paul” and “Pancho and Lefty.” With as much material as he has, he probably could have played until dawn, but I’m glad he stuck with the classics. He’s Willie. He doesn’t have to impress anyone.

His band was low-key and mellow, which is about what I expected from Willie, who is now 73. They didn’t really sound like a typical country band. Instead they noodled in out of folksy jam rock, almost jazz, and western swing. Sometimes they sounded country, but they really sounded like they were a bunch of old friends (which they are) just kind of jamming together as they segued from one song to the next often without pause, just drifting like a bunch of people who just enjoy getting together to play a few tunes on the front porch. Perhaps it’s this semi-sloppy, thoroughly endearing aspect of Willie’s music that I love so much. He’s an incredible singer and a talented guitarist, but he’s really just there to enjoy himself and we get to come along for the ride, joining that band of gypsies as they go down the highway.

Check out Lenwood for a rundown of Willie’s Friday night show.


  1. I think Willie has created his own “space” with his music. I would not care to dump into a genre

  2. I think Willie has created his own “space” with his music. I would not care to dump it into a genre

  3. Of the 10 best concerts I’ve ever experienced, three of them are Willie shows, and two of those were at the Backyard. He’s without a doubt a master of his art. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever return to that once-beautiful venue. I’m not a typical Austin tree hugger, but all of that big box development on top of what used to be beautiful hills and trees makes me sick to my stomach when I drive by. I’d prefer to keep my memories of the place the way they are.

  4. You’re right about his music kind of rambling along at its own pace. Its like Willie’s attitude is “I’ll get to that part of the song by and by.” But somehow with his music this doesn’t create tension, its relaxing.

    And I also love that he didn’t have much to say between songs. He came to play, and that’s what he did. It really was an incredible show. I can’t wait to see him again.

  5. Mallory, I think it’s that genrelessness(?) that makes Willie so unique. Now that I think about it though a lot of Austin music is that way. Of course Willie is a major inspiration to many musicians around here.

    Spencer, I saw Calexico out there a year ago when they were still doing all that building. I hadn’t been out there is 9 years and I was shocked and a bit saddened to see it, but then I’ve gotten used to everything around here disappearing…

    Chris, I like your take on Willie’s style. Well put.

  6. I was there too.
    I had tickets in row 4 and also backstage passes for me and my dad.
    I think we catched an great show.
    It was always a dream from me to see Willie live.
    For this reason I came from Germany to visit my friends in Austin and to see the show.
    I love his music but Paula and Angela Peterson
    both were great too.

  7. Lars, thanks for visiting (both this blog and Austin). I hope you enjoyed your stay in our fair city.

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