Waylon Warms up after awhile
Hampton, Va. Coliseum, Feb. 5, 1997
Hampton, VA - Waylon Jennings has been called an Outlaw. One of the first to challenge the Nashville way of doing things, Waylon established his own sound. He was dangerous. A maverick.
But in concert, he didn't seem that dangerous at all. The Hoss seemed saddlebroke.
Performing to about 4,000, less than a third of a house at the 13,800-seat Hampton Coliseum, Waylon seemed lost. Opening was his wife Jessi who performed an uneventful 20-minute set. Colter has a great hillbilly voice suited to Hardcore Honky Tonk.
But it didn't seem to fit the pop country set list. Yet, the crowd was appreciative.
Then the lights faded once again, and The Hoss came out. With that jangling guitar sound that is immediately recognizable as Waylon, he jumped into a stream of his 70's and 80's hits. "Ain't Living Long Like This," "Good Hearted Woman/Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," "Amanda" and an uptempo "Help Me Make It Thru the Night."
It was a Cookie Cutter, Paint by Numbers, Waylon's Greatest Hits show. He played eight songs back to back before even saying hello to the crowd. By then, people were already walking out.
Now it wasn't all Jennings' fault. Hampton Coliseum is cavernous at best. The sound man was unable to get rid of the echo's off the back walls. The people running the lights would shine the spotlights on anyone other than the musician playing lead.
The show was not promoted on radio. When the local Hot New Country station called him up for an interview and to try and snatch some free tickets, Waylon said, "I don't do radio."
Who can blame him?
He isn't pretty, and radio won't play anybody that doesn't fit their tight, focus group boardroom demographics. If you are over 35, you ain't making it on radio.
But the crowd didn't care. They were here to see Waylon. Too bad radio didn't survey the crowd. Teenagers with long hair and body piercing to bluehaired old ladies. And the ones that stuck it out loved it.
The band didn't seem to have any fire in it at all, with one exception. The Waylors - Jerry Bridges, bass, Fred Lawrence, piano, Jeff Hayle, drums, Bobby Emmons, organ and Fred Newell, guitar, mandolin and pedal steel - seemingly were going through the motions for the first half of the show. All except for Newell. His pedal steel playing was fabulous. Playing steel one minute, jumping up for a guitar lick or two, then back to the steel, he was the only musician that we were sure wasn't a wind-up robot.
Someone in the crowd screamed out "We love you Waylon" to which he replied "Thanks, but you ain't gettin' my Bud."And then the evil spell was broken.
Once Jennings started interacting with the crowd , he and the band came alive. He told a story about Leon The Wooden Indian that has been part of his stage set for 20 years. It seems Leon has a broken nose from where some thief grabbed it after a show and started running off with it. The band was in hot pursuit until Waylon reminded them all that Leon weighed 210 pounds and nobody was gonna run with him for very long. They set off in a hot walking pursuit until they found Leon laying by the side of the road.
The second half of the show wasn't as bad. Waylon was joined onstage by his wife Jessi for "Suspicious Minds" and "Storms Never Last" After a few more Greatest Hits and an encore featuring the Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard, it was over.
If you want to see Waylon live, go see him in a club or small hall. He does better when it is a more intimate setting. Putting him in the middle of a football field to play doesn't allow him or the audience to enjoy themselves. It wasn't so much of a concert. It felt more like a display.