Last Wednesday I saw Willie Nelson in San Diego

I drove down to San Diego last Wednesday night to see Willie Nelson at the Balboa Theater. I’d never been to that theater before. It’s beautiful. It’s a nice medium-sized venue. And I was right down front. When I bought the tickets, I guess I thought the venue would be larger and I wouldn’t be that close. Unfortunately, my camera battery died after about 5 pics so I had to snap most with my cell phone.

What can I say about Willie Nelson? This was (I think) the 7th time I’ve seen him in the past 3 years. Yet he still surprised me. I was excited for the show but not in an OHMYGODRADIOHEADISPLAYINGASECRETSHOW kind of way. In fact, I just don’t get that way about concerts or things in general. For all the fan-centric things I do, I’m not fan-ish.

What I thought about at this show was that how nice it would be to listen to the music. It seemed the right venue. I had nice seats. I was in the third row of the theater (2 rows of chairs had been moved in front of the theater seats so I was in the 5th row overall) with a phenomenal view. I was musing about how even though Willie and the Family were opening with songs I always hear them open with, I could just sit here and soak it in.

But the people seated right next to me had other ideas. They were out for the night. This was A CONCERT! They were going to make the most out of it. God bless ’em, ya know. If it weren’t for people like that, Willie couldn’t tour as much as he does.

But then, shouldn’t the venue count for something? When I saw Willie on the Country Throwdown tour last year, it was in a field with a bunch of rednecks who’d been drinking beer, smoking weed and listening to loud country music all day. I didn’t expect to sit back and really soak in Willie’s set. And Willie didn’t play a set for soaking in that night. He played the hits and some great country classics and he didn’t play too long.

The Balboa Theater is different than the Country Throwdown tour. It’s an old theater. It’s nice. It’s not loud. We all had our shirts on. No one was waving a rebel flag. I don’t know that we’re all supposed to feel like we just listen at a show but if we were, this was the place to do it.

It’s not like the people next to me ruined the show or anything. I mean, it’s sorta hard to forgive the guy singing along to “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” but at least he knew the words. The people next to me weren’t really rowdy. They just talked a whole lot and yelled at weird times.

What interests me about it is the interaction people have with music in general. Culturally, we think of concerts as a big deal, a special event. Just like culturally we think of record contracts as a big deal, as album release dates as a big deal. But you know, it’s just folk music. Live music seems to be regarded either as background music or as a huge event. Why don’t we just sit back, appreciate it and really listen?

I’m going to see Willie again on Tuesday in LA. When he opens with “Whiskey River,” I’m not going to scream “Yeehaw!” and raise my glass and tell my friends how classic it is. It doesn’t mean I’m not a fan. I love the man. I just want to listen to him play some music.