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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Willie Nelson fortunately remains on the road again

Pomona Fairplex, Pomona, Cal., Sept. 26, 2003

By Dan MacIntosh

POMONA, CA - One of this show's sponsors was a brand of whiskey, yet no bottles of the hard stuff littered Willie Nelson's stage. There was, however, a prominently placed can of WD-40 spotted - for whatever reason. But certainly, Nelson doesn't need any lubricants to play - ingested or otherwise - since his family band purred through its 2-hour set like a well-oiled machine. And with a set list of over 40 songs, it's unlikely anyone left this show unsatisfied.

Nelson opened his performance in front of this race track grandstand with "Whiskey River" and then proceeded to play almost every favorite Willie song imaginable. There were too many highlights to mention, but the wry humor of "Me and Paul" came off particularly well, and "Funny How Time Slips Away" nicely brought out this master vocalists impeccable phrasing.

Nelson rarely handed off the spotlight, but his show lost little momentum whenever his stone-faced sister Bobbie played either churchy or honky-tonk piano. Nevertheless, his concerts can do without guitarist (and limited vocalist) Jody Paines' solo turns - even though his song selection of Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man Blues" tonight was a smart one.

Although Nelson has performed many of these songs innumerable times, you never got the impression he was just going through the motions. His voice was strong throughout, and the playing on his time-warn acoustic guitar was never less than inspired.

Surprisingly, Nelson still finds room for a few unexpected songs in his set. This night, he played "The Great Divide," as well as "Beer for My Horses," his hit duet with Toby Keith, in addition to the givens, such as "On The Road Again" and "Always On My Mind."

There's been a lot of talk about how The Beatles are now down to just two remaining members. But with the rercent death of Johnny Cash, The Highwaymen are now equally shorthanded. And since Kris Kristofferson has apparently settled upon acting as his primary career choice, that leaves Nelson as the supergroup's lone active troubadour. It was more than a little heartening to see Willie Nelson looking so healthy and sounding so good in front of this fair audience, and we should all be glad he still can't wait to get on the road again.