Over the course of his 30-song sing-along at Radio City Music Hall last night, Willie Nelson proved he’s nothing if not generous. When the man says he’s about to play a Hank Williams tune, he’s actually about to play three Hank Williams tunes. And don’t try to clap, or whoop, or yell “WILLLLLLLIE!” when he’s done crooning “On the Road Again” because you’ll miss the opening couplets of “Always on My Mind.” Nelson dashed from song to song to song, braids hanging to his belly, pausing only occasionally to fling red bandannas into the crowd.
Given the screams coming from the audience, you’d think a few undergarments might come flying onstage in return for this generosity. But that never happened, and the 75-year-old had to earn his own laughs. (He made it look easy with a new ditty called “Superman” — it starts with the punch line, “Too many pain pills, too much pot / Tryin’ to be something that I’m not … I ain’t Superman.”)
He played the classics, too: clarion heart melters about lost love (“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”), the open road (“City of New Orleans”), and lost love on the open road ("Me and Bobby McGee”) — all sung in that handsome, honey-coated warble. By set’s end, Nelson was walking across the lip of the stage doling out handshakes, kisses, and bro hugs while his band played “I Saw the Light.” We saw it too — it was the stage manager cranking up the house lights, kicking us out into the Thursday-evening bluster.