Review: Willie Nelson at Koka Booth


Cary, NC — Every time I plop down a lawn chair on the pine straw of Koka Booth Amphitheatre I am reminded how lucky we are to have this venue in our town.  When country legend Willie Nelson was in town I had to go.  It was a plus that I would get to hear the angelic voice of Alison Krauss along with Union Station.

Alison Krauss and Union Station

With Alison Krauss there were no surprises. After a little speech about how the moment she lands here in North Carolina that she is happy – “even people in the airport are … well … nice” –  they broke into “The Lucky One”.   I feel the same way about Koka Booth Amphitheatre.

Midway through their set the crowd got involved when Krauss and band played “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow”.  The male singer in the band, John “Dan” Tyminski, was the Soggy Bottom Boys voice for George Clooney in the hit from the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”.

Krauss and the Station were great.  Nailed them all.  Candy for bluegrass addicts.

Willie Nelson at Koka Booth

Willie, well, Willie was Willie.  In fact, I had seen him perform several times before and this concert was different from them.  This was ALL Willie. There was very little in the way of backup vocals, very little in the way of backup instruments.  Just the Red-Headed Stranger and “Trigger” (the name for his beat up, worn out Martin guitar).  By the way, Willie Nelson is an AMAZING guitar player. I don’t care if you like his music or not, he is all over that grimy fret board.  Trigger is part of Willie.

He opened with “Whiskey River”.  What else?  Willie Nelson once said, “If you can’t sing, you better have style”!  He was blessed with both.

As I watched him bang and pull at the nylon strings of his beloved beautiful mess of a guitar, with the huge Texas flag as a backdrop I wondered how much longer Willie would be around and how everyone that loves country music needs to see him before he isn’t around anymore.

“Well there’ll never be another Red-Headed Stranger”  – The great George Jones in his song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”


Story by Matt Young. Photo from WillieNelson.com.

1 reply
  1. Bruce Cotton
    Bruce Cotton says:

    I love Koka Booth. What a great venue!

    I had seen Willie years ago, and he is just as good today. He knows how to manage his age ;) – but his performance is what you would expect from a legend. It was nice to see him interact with the crowd, and do autographs afterwards.

    We’ve also seen Alison a few times, and it was apparent they were using her voice less at this show – but it was easily made up for by Jerry Douglas and the other incredible talent. She is a great combination with anyone, like in the recent Robert Plant duo… but this was a nice match with Willie.

    Thanks to all the KB staff – you all are great!


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