t h e r e i s m o r e m u s i c a l t u e s d a y s
This past sunday evening, I took the subway (yes, there is a subway in LA) from Union station downtown all the way into Hollywood at Hollywood and Highland. I walked up the hill, gave the friendly folks at the Hollywood Bowl my ticket, located my seats in section N-1, and sat down with a gang of architect-camper friends. They gave me fried chicken, hummus, cheese and wine. I had also brought some wine, as is customary at the Bowl.
As I walked in, Neko Case was playing some country-pop-rockish stuff. She did that pretty well, and even had a guy with a pedal steel guitar who played some great sliding, slippery licks. That was a good start.
Then when she was done, an announcer came up to say goodbye to her and introduce the next act. Instead of a break, the whole center of the stage – including backdrop – rotated 180 degrees to reveal Ryan Adams and his band already tuned up and ready to rock. Which they proceeded to do. Now, if I ever listened to the radio, I might have heard songs from one or both of these groups. But I do not, and had not, so all the music was brand new to me, and quite satisfactory. This Adams fellow strung together elements of bare blues rock, country, a touch of Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead (I was grateful that element was minimal) with some seriously good guitar playing, a bit of angriness, and a sense of humor. I was impressed.
But this was noting.
Next stage rotation, and a giant Texas flag was revealed. Now, these days I would normally cringe when faced with a 20 foot tall flag from the home state of our current president – but this particular Texan flag represented all that is good from that oversized state. Standing in front of it was the elder stateman of what I like to think of as the-good-country-music (well, Johnny Cash is gone you know). Willie Nelson. Arrayed about him was a fantastic band made up of family and friends, and they whipped those opening young rock-stars arses.
On his beat up, nylon (?) string acoustic guitar – run through the gritty distortion of some some bad-ass amps – he might as well have been B. B. King. And that golden voice of his has aged to perfection. Singing mainly songs I have never heard (he sped through his standard hits as if they were only there to appease the audience), he filled up that gigantic amphitheatre with some kick-ass and heartfelt sound.
His daughter pounded out some honky-tonk piano, son on the headless guitar pulled off a Stevie Ray Vaughan kind of thing – blazing away in counter-point to his dad’s heartfelt blues riffing. It was a real family affair, and a beautiful night out under the stars. So – go back over that old Willie Nelson stuff if you get a chance. Try to get beyond the radio hits, maybe even dig up a live album. That man is one of the old masters, and I am glad I got to see him do his thing in person.
Next month, Bob Dylan is in LA. I gotta get myself to that one, given that he is my hero and all, and is playing on my birthday.
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