|Sign outside Genesee Theater, from Sonya Leigh's blog|
Willie performed in Waukegan's Genesee Theater, and he more or less played the roof of the pretty building, certainly one of the few pretty buildings in town. It was pretty much packed, and downtown Waukegan looked like an appealing and lively place. Apparently that is a rarity - 'appealing' or 'lively' are not the typical terms people use to describe this rundown industrial town, which, on all the days that Willie is not town, only has the unblocked views on Lake Michigan going for it. But anyway, we picked the good night to explore our northern neighbors. And we had plenty of time to explore, looking at the Genesee Theater audience during the show. The best way to describe that audience? Well, it all felt a little bizarre, out-of-this-worldly, the hairdo's, the clothing style, the characters. As if GABROEN was caught in a rerun of a 1980s American Funniest Home Video-episode. But at least we had way, way more entertaining hosts than Bob Saget. Opening the evening was Georgia-bred country rocker Sonia Leigh, who got the crowd going with "Porkchop marijuana" and some other instant classics. After that, Willie was rockin' and jammin' as if indeed nothing had changed since Julio, crankin' out song after song. "On the road again", "For all the girls I loved before", "Always on my mind", "Whiskey River", "Shotgun Willie", "Crazy", and of course "Mama (and the crowd yelled/repeated MMAAAMMMMMAA), don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys". In his 1,5 hour gig, he probably paused his guitar play for 5 minutes total. And when he was finally done, he shook hands and handed out autographs for at least another 15 minutes, while his little sis' Bobbie Nelson (she is 80, has played with her baby brother for the last 40 years, and released her debut album at age 76!) and band continued to jam the night away.
I definitely raise my bandana for this guy, and my cowboy hat for Bobbie. Great performance. They show us how to be on the road, again and again.