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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Waylon does it his way

Sportsmen's Lodge, Studio City, CA, Oct. 15, 1999

By Dan MacIntosh

STUDIO CITY, CA - It seems like a mighty unlikely place to be holding "A Celebration of the American West." The setting is a banquet hall, more appropriate for a wedding celebration than a Waylon Jennings concert. In fact, a rather ritzy wedding reception was actually taking place in the room right next to the concert hall. And it sure looked funny to see cowboys in cowboy attire, mingling with young adults in tuxedos out in the hall that joined these two rooms.

But after a meal of Southwestern grub and a presentation by the Professional Bull Riders Athletes, the curtain opened revealing aging outlaw Jennings.

Seated on a swivel chair, due to his bad back, Waylon was accompanied by as many as 11 other musicians, including 3 horns. But no matter how many different colors are applied to Jennings' songs, his sound is amazingly consistent: Waylon's thumping bass of a voice, matched with an equally thumping bass-heavy musical backing.

Waylon's distinctively low voice was in fine form. Accompanied by his wife, Jessi Colter, throughout he sang each song with gusto, rattled off stories about men with names like Cash, Kristofferson, Nelson and Silverstein and fought with a guitar that just wouldn't stay in tune.

Unlike many other "country legends" who stay on the road into their twilight years, Jennings doesn't pander to having his band come on, play an instrumental medley of his hits, before giving a couple of his band members the opportunity to sing a few. No, Waylon took front-and-center of this 90-minute show from beginning to end.

Also surprising was his song selection. Sure, he found a place for "Good Hearted Woman" and "Amanda," but he excluded the alt.-country anthem "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" and "America." This was his show, and he was going to play what he liked. He even said so, at one point.

Instead, he covered Dobie Grey's "Drift Away" and The Band's "The Weight." He also threw in a few new songs. He opened with Rodney Crowell's "Ain't Livin' Long Like This" and closed with "Never Say Die."

Such bookends say a lot about Jennings' character and approach to making music. Although visibly in pain from back trouble, as well as being admittedly nervous about not being there to support his son - who was playing over the hill in Hollywood - Waylon is a troubadour. Maybe one of the last of his kind. And I'm sure Hank also done it this way.