On the surface, it was largely the same batch of songs delivered a year ago by Willie Nelson and Family, but Tuesday night's appearance at the Gallivan Center was a more energized, focused show.
Unfortunately, one aspect it shared with 2010's Red Butte Garden show was that there were a handful of jarring moments, especially early on, from the 78-year-old country music icon. Nelson's discordant, awkward solo during the traditional opener of "Whiskey River," was alarming and highlighted the fact that for the second straight year, Nelson was the lone guitarist on stage, which continues to be an unexplained change from years gone by.
And despite Nelson's problems with the melody to "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," and the choppy transitions of the medley stringing "Funny How Time Slips Away," "Crazy," and "Night Life," it was generally too fun of a show to complain about.
And when a guy plays 35 songs (that's a dollar per song, before service fees, on the advance ticket by the way) and hits as many right notes as Nelson does along the way during a fast-paced 100-minute set, it's tough to quibble.
Arguably, the strongest moment of the night was Nelson's impassioned vocal delivery of "I Never Cared For You," from 1998's "Teatro," and the rave-up during "Bloody Mary Morning" off arguably Nelson's best album, "Phases and Stages." One of the few changes from the 2010 SLC setlist was Nelson's welcome take on the Billy Joe Shaver classic, "You Asked Me Too." Another newcomer to the songlist was Nelson's tongue-in-cheek, "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die." The new gospel song was well-received by the crowd, many of whom had rolled up stuff of their to smoke during the course of the night.
Despite Nelson's prowess as a songwriter, some of the cover songs were among the highlights, "Jambalaya On The Bayou," by Hank Williams had the whole audience dancing as did Charlie Monroe's "Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms."
SLC was just one of more than 100 gigs Nelson and company will play this year. They're en route to Chico, Calif., and the question remains unanswered why at his age Nelson maintains this schedule, but one thing's for sure, the nearly 5,000 people on hand Tuesday were sure glad he keeps at it.
Here's the setlist from Tuesday night: Whiskey River Still Is Still Moving To Me Beer For My Horses Good Hearted Woman Funny How Time Slips Away> Crazy> Night Life Instrumental Me and Paul If You've Got The Money I've Got The Time Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain City of New Orleans To All The Girls I've Loved Before Superman You Don't Think I'm Funny Anymore Georgia On My Mind Jambalaya on the Bayou Hey Good Lookin' Move It On Over Healing Hands of Time Georgia on a Fast Train Always On My Mind Bloody Mary Morning Help Me Make It Through The Night On the Road Again Instrumental I Gotta Get Drunk You Asked Me Too Will The Circle Be Unbroken> I Saw The Light> I'll Fly Away I Never Cared For You Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms Roll Me Up and Smoke Me (When I Die)> I Saw The Light