There is something rotten in the air. A dead noise. Volume is cranked up and lips are moving at the beat of the strum. Nothing much comes from it. It is the sound of being halved and it runs the whole night.
Booming speakers face each other, or perhaps not exactly in that coordination, as the sound they carry hits a wall of air, somewhere down a few rows. It’s audible enough to know there is singing coming from Willie Nelson & Family, yet not as clear as being able to know what is going on. An ever present thud looms the air, weaving a basket of a blanket as the melody rides on and it’s the next song.
Lauren Jenkins opens, and with the audio doing a phantom split, the asides and chatty parts between songs is lost, drooping out in the background with soft thunder being most of the conversation. Muffled? No. Closer to hearing someone through a window. So it is for the rest of the night.
Willie Nelson walks in with a wide brim hat and feels about the first batch of songs. The backdrop changes over and the hat flies into the crowd. Arms smack about for that chance to grab and scratch and have at least someone walk home with a story about that random streak of blood down their arm. Now we’re into the night with the red bandana and we’re “On The Road Again” for the music that sounds half as it is because the audio does it no favours.
It’s less a night of singing the songs as they used to be, and more about picking up the hint that these are pinging around in the brain. The notes and the rhythms being what they feel like, just not what they sound like. Like a Rex Harrison type of speaking-singing, words are clear to the ear without a bounce. Stepping back from the production tempo baking in hours of listening to the Pet Shop Boys’ cover of the cover, “Always On My Mind” falls to a rueful mood, most of that from a spoken word affected delivery as music exists in the background.
Little to no banter sits between each song. Done with one and we’re on to the next. Turn up, crank them out, walk it off. Efficient. It’s a clean cut finish with no lingering dialogue beyond introducing the Family members. After the pleasantries, a mob spreads along the front row, pawing at Nelson, sticking markers up along with things to sign. A few people manage to get a photograph, with Nelson having to do the bulk of the angle adjustment, leaning in from above to fit into frame. The crowd pulls toward house right, more and more make a rush to the end before Nelson waves the crowd and saunters off. Those clamouring over on house left are not getting anything. There is no encore.
Bass? Treble? One of them holds too much of the balance and weighs down the whole night. There are songs waiting for the ears, but they cannot escape a body sat on by decibels drifting in the wrong direction.
Taking out the night with an empty plastic merchandise bag as a memorabilia token at the EKU Center for the Arts on 11 May 2019.
Reviewed on Sunday, 12 May 2019