Secret Pop

Dec 5, 2003

"I'll take you with me everywhere I go."

Willie Nelson sure does put on a fine show for an older fellow. He's just what you'd expect, and he plays everything you want him to. And he just seems happy to be doing it every minute of the time. Although, I did listen to song after song and at one point think to myself, "Lord, how many times has this guy been dumped?" For that is the fare. Sad songs about love that wasn't meant to be. Bittersweet goodbyes. Just plain bitter goodbyes. Apologies for wrongdoing. Second chance bartering. All the poignant romantic business of a country singer who really knows how to play the blues.

Because man can that guy play! I was terribly impressed with the frenzied action of his left hand. And I love how he makes that instrument work. Picking out melody lines that resolve into gentle chords. It's not at all the chang chang chang business that so much guitar-playing gets to be. It's delicate and precise and athletic and grand. Man. He really can play.

And it's a good thing, too, because when I fetched the tickets from the big envelope they came in, I gawked at the price I paid for them. I guess it hadn't mattered much to me when I first bought them. They were intended to bring joy to someone else, and that is usually something on which I do not place price limits. But I guess it's getting that way. When you go to see legends of the stage, you pay a pretty penny for it. And respectable people come out in droves with their sportjackets on and their good handbags. And they don't clap along unless Willie himself instructs them to. And these days, the legends of the stage are taking to the show circuit in droves, and simultaneously, the mantle of "legend" is being handed out a bit indiscriminately, if you ask me. I'm trying to be pickier about my ticket purchases. A girl could easily bankrupt herself trying to catch a glimpse of everyone you nearly never see on the road anymore. But, all in all, I'm glad I didn't slam the door on tonight, pricey or no. And I'm not the only one who thought it would be worth it. The parking lot attendant told me that all sorts of people had come out for the show. He made specific mention of Tony Shalhoub and Morgan Fairchild. I was surprised in both cases. But I guess you never know these days what a guy's going to have on his iPod. And what's available is so many-colored and those iPods have so much hard drive space that it's hard to let what's actually on his iPod mean anything at all about him. Unless it's all just audio books about leadership. That would say a great deal actually.

It was a fine show. Quaint, in a way. I kept being amused by the audience response. When a song they knew came on, there was a lot of oohing and aahing and clapping. And when a giant American flag unrolled as the backdrop, there was a swell of approval. And I snickered at it. Not because I hate America, but because I find this sort of patriotism-on-tap to be amusing and maybe a little sad. Sad because it's false. Because a sense of nationalism should not be Pavlovian. It should be considered and deliberate. I want to be moved by what my country stands for. Not just because I have been programmed to respond to an icon. And maybe people are genuinely moved by the sight of the flag. I guess that's possible. But I would expect them to respond with solemnity and reverence rather than the same caliber of "woo" they offered when Georgia On My Mind came up in the set list. The people across the street from my parents put up their christmas lights in the shape of an American flag on their garage door. And I tut-tutted in my head as I drove by, knowing that Santa wouldn't look favorably on this obvious mixing of Independence Day with his one big chance of the year to be more important to children than anyone else. Even George Washington. But I'll let him sort that out.

There was a point in the show when all the various band members were doing their little showcase bits and it felt sort of like watching the Country Bear Jamboree. I hope the world realizes I mean no disrespect by that comparison.

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