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Willie Nelson

Diamond Center at Desert Diamond Casino, Sunday, Feb. 18

Willie Nelson was on my List of Performers I Want to See Before They and/or I Die prior to attending his show last Sunday. Not only is his music legendary, but his willingness to stand up for righteous social causes (i.e., the promotion of biodiesel and drug-law reform) makes him even greater in my eyes--so much so that I can forgive him for The Dukes of Hazzard movie and for being a shill for the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain.

Now I can cross seeing Willie off my list, and while I can't say his show was flawless, I can say that I got goosebumps several times while watching the legend perform.

The median age of the crowd at the long-sold-out show at the Diamond Center was probably somewhere in the mid-50s, and they were a pretty mellow, albeit appreciative, bunch as Willie came onstage and launched into "Whiskey River." Cameras flashed all around the arena as Willie and his backup band--highlighted by the amazing Mickey Raphael on harmonica--played their set. Nelson seemed to rush the lyrics on a number of songs, as if he were in a hurry to get back on the biodiesel bus, but that didn't stop the aforementioned goosebumps on my arm from rising when Willie sang "Crazy," arguably Nelson's best-known song, thanks in large part to the late Patsy Cline.

Several more goosebump moments followed during the 100-plus-minute concert. How can you not be awed listening to Willie--as he strums his beat-up guitar, Trigger--go straight from "Blue Skies" into "Georgia on My Mind"?

While the classics delighted the audience the most, Willie seemed happiest while he was singing some of his newer songs, such as "Superman" (a humorous song off his 2005 iTunes Originals album, in which the now-73-year-old sings about trying to do too much with the help of "too many pain pills, too much pot") and "Back to Earth," which appears on last year's Songbird and will be on Last of the Breed, an album by Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price slated for March release.

If you're kicking yourself for missing these goosebump moments, there's good news: Before the concert, it was announced that since this show sold out so quickly, Nelson will be back at the Desert Diamond Casino on Tuesday, May 1, with tickets going on sale April 2.

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