Trigger, Willie Nelson's guitar/ Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace
It was a record ticket price (up to $99) for a Minnesota Zoo concert. Guess a high price (pun intended) is what you’d expect for Willie Nelson’s zoo debut, a rare appearance at the 1,500-seat amphitheater. Even all the standing-room spots were taken for Tuesday’s sold-out concert.
If you haven’t seen Willie since his heyday at the Minnesota State Fair, he has gone stripped down these days. Electric guitarist Jody Payne retired in 2009 and was never replaced. It’s just Willie on his battered old Martin acoustic, known as Trigger.
Drummer Paul English had a stroke in 2010 (he drummed on only a handful of oldies at the zoo and played a shaker on most tunes), and his brother, Billy English, did most of the drumming, on a kit abbreviated to a snare drum.
Bassist Kevin Smith signed on in 2011 after Bee Spears died, and the newcomer played a fair amount of upright on Tuesday. But little sister Bobbie Nelson remains on piano and Mickey Raphael on harmonica, though he gets fewer and fewer solos as Willie favors a quieter, more subtle sound.
The Red Headed Stranger has too many hits to fit in a 90-minute set. So, of course, some fans might have been disappointed not to hear “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” “Stay All Night,” “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time,” “Blue Skies” or “Pancho and Lefty.”
My review talked about many of the highlights. Here is what Willie played at the zoo:
Whiskey River/ Still Is Still Moving to Me/ Beer for My Horses/ Good-Hearted Woman/ Funny How Times Slips Away > Crazy > Nightlife/ Down Yonder (instrumental featuring Bobbie Nelson)/ Me and Paul/ Help Me Make It Through the Night/ Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys/ Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground/ On the Road Again/ Always on My Mind/ instrumental/ Matchbox/ South of the Border/ Shoeshine Man/ Let’s Face the Music and Dance/ Georgia on My Mind/ Superman/ You Don’t Think I’m Funny Anymore/ I Never Cared for You/ Move It On Over/ City of New Orleans/ To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before/ Will the Circle Be Unbroken > I’ll Fly Away/ Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die/ I Saw the Light
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