Nothing Could Ruin Willie at the Winspear. Not Even Dallas's Notoriously Chatty Crowd.

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Stephen Masker
Just a couple of icons...
Here is the sad thing: Last night, I did not wear my pair of 1981 Justin cowboy boots to the Winspear Opera House. This is largely due to the fact that I have literally worn the soles through as a result of wearing them practically every day for the last eight or so years. My mom bought the boots to wear to a Willie Nelson concert that I believe was at the Fort Worth Convention Center, and I later discovered them gathering dust on a high closet shelf, claiming them for my own. So, holey soles or not, I should have worn them last night. I didn't. I wore a new pair of boots that are nice and all, but are not my mom's cowboy boots.

I tell you this because last night, Willie Nelson killed it at the Winspear, appearing as a very special guest at the Virgin America launch party celebrating the airline's new service from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to California. Why anyone would want to go to California after watching one of Texas's most talented native sons sing some of the greatest songs ever written, I don't know, but, whatever, I am fairly certain that when Sir Richard Branson wants something, he gets it.

And he got Willie.

The party was nice. The Winspear is a classy place. It has light-up screens everywhere instead of signs and lettering, so it's kind of like being in the future, if the future were a well-designed airport terminal. (I hope it is.) There were hors d'oeuvres, including a piece of smoked salmon on what appeared to be a tiny pancake, which was the most delicious. The crowd was nice and diverse -- we saw representatives from the stilettos-and-mini set, dorky people in jeans and sandals, monied cowboys, etc. -- and oh yeah, everyone talked through Willie's set.

What is wrong with you people?

It is not just the hangover hate in my heart talking, although I probably didn't need those last two "Lonestar Libations" made with acai vodka. I knew Dallas had a reputation for being a chatty city that liked to ignore musicians on stage, and I've seen it happen before, but I really thought that Willie Freaking Nelson would inspire people to shut the hell up.

He didn't. It was embarrassing.

By the end of his hour-long set, much of the ass-baggy chatter crowd had cleared out, leaving an enthusiastic smattering of fans who clapped and sang along to the hits, and I do mean hits: "Crazy," "Always On My Mind," "City of New Orleans," and a Time Life collection more.

I'll say it: I cried. So, there. I didn't really think the first time I would ever see Willie Nelson live would be at a private party for some rich British dude culminating in the red-headed stranger dancing with a couple of hot stewardesses, but I'll take it.

I recorded the entire set on my crappy journalist-standard digital voice recorder, and we've included Willie's first song, below. "Whiskey River," take my mind ....

For more photos from Willie's performance, check out Stephen Masker's slideshow right here.



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