Show review: Willie Nelson at Mystic Lake Casino

by Mark Brenden


It has become a cliché among the, if you will, “green” sector of America to say, “If all the leaders of the world just smoked a joint together, there would be no wars.” Which is moronic. The real truth is that if Willie Nelson smoked a joint with all the leaders of the world, there would be no wars.

But it’s not just that he is the only person whose image Snoop Dogg, Toby Keith, your Emmer-voting Grandpa and your doobie-binging brother can get behind — he’s seemingly immortal. He’s looked like the 70-year-old Tuck Everlasting his entire career — his braids always grey, his heart always young. And Friday night at Mystic Lake Casino (no arena for a spring chicken) he made everybody in the building feel youthful.

To be sure, a 2010 Willie performance is to be taken with a dollop of salt — our highwayman is more than a few miles over the hill. At times it was unclear if the 77-year-old knew what time signature he was putting his dawdling jazz-guitar solos on top of. He can no longer make you swoon with his high howl in “You were always on my miind” or make your blue eyes cry in the rain; but, like a modern Bob Dylan show, it’s that consecrated presence that counts.

Unlike a modern Dylan show, you could at least tell which songs ol’ Willie was attempting to sing. And he shot through all the classics at the Casino, rolling through several Hank Williams covers, “On the Road Again” and a medley of “It’s Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy” and “Night Life.”  After the medley, he ceremoniously adorned himself with his famous dirty red bandana and became Super Willie — tearing through a surprisingly swift version of “A Good Hearted Woman,” which he dedicated to his late riding partner Waylon Jennings.

In a hokey yet endearing rite, several patrons tossed their cowboy hats on stage for Willie to wear for a song. The first of which was branded with the words “Ali, The Champ.” In a way, the sight was absurd and comical, but in another — the way he outlasted his Outlaw contemporaries and may well outlast us — it was perfectly fitting.