10 Apr 03
It was nearly 1 a.m. on Thursday 10 April when Shania Twain and Toby Keith wheeled a guitar-shaped cake onstage at New York’s Beacon Theater to lead a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" in country music legend Willie Nelson’s honor. Also crowding the stage were Lyle Lovett, Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Chesney, Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, Leon Russell, Norah Jones, Steven Tyler, and Paul Shaffer. The concert had started shortly after 8 p.m. on 9 April.
The occasion was the taping of USA Networks’ "Willie Nelson & Friends" 70th birthday tribute concert, which will air on the US Memorial Day holiday (May 26). The cable outlet is also planning encore broadcasts at 11:00 p.m. ET that same night, May 31 at 2 a.m. ET, and June 1 at 9 a.m. ET.
Among the highlights of the nearly five-hour show, which will be whittled down to two hours for broadcast, was a duet between Nelson and Eric Clapton on the song "Night Life." The seasoned guitarist’s trademark blues style fit well with Nelson’s homespun delivery, and the pairing was easily the crowd’s favorite of the night.
Other peaks included Nelson and Paul Simon’s rendition of "Homeward Bound," Nelson, Ray Charles, and Russell performing the latter’s "A Song for You," and Krall and Costello teaming with Nelson on "Crazy." Nelson surprised the audience with the introduction of fellow country veteran Ray Price and the pair sang his "Run That By Me One More Time" before being joined by Lovett to perform Bob Wills’ "San Antonio Girl." ZZ Top and Wyclef Jean also performed, while expected appearances by Merle Haggard and Jerry Lee Lewis never materialized.
The night’s guest list also included actors Robert De Niro, Ethan Hawke, Whoopi Goldberg, and Ali McGraw, and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who introduced various performances.
"I Didn’t Come Here and I Ain’t Leavin," Willie Nelson
"Me and Bobby McGee," Kris Kristofferson and Sheryl Crow
"I Don’t Want To Get Over You," Norah Jones and Nelson
"I Could Not Believe," John Mellencamp
"A Song for You," Ray Charles, Leon Russell, and Nelson
"Homeward Bound," Paul Simon and Nelson
"Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away," Lyle Lovett and Shelby Lynne
"Night Life," Eric Clapton and Nelson
"Beer for My Horses," Toby Keith and Nelson
"To All the Girls I Loved Before," Wyclef John and Nelson
"Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain," Shania Twain and Nelson
"Always," Twain and Nelson
"Crazy," Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, and Nelson
"She Loves My Automobile," ZZ Top and Nelson
"Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning," Kenny Chesney and Nelson
"Once Is Enough," Steven Tyler and Nelson
"There’s An Angel Flyin’ Too Close to the Ground," Lynne and Nelson
"Run That By Me One More Time," Ray Price and Nelson
"San Antonio Girl," Lyle Lovett, Price, and Nelson
"Nobody Can Make Me Do Wrong," Crow and Nelson
"Help Me Make It Through the Night," Kristofferson and Nelson
"I’ll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again," Toby Keith and Nelson
"I Just Thought," Jones and Nelson
"Jumpin’ Jack Flash," Russell and Nelson
"Whiskey River," Nelson
"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," Nelson
"On the Road Again," Nelson and company
Full coverage and exclusive photos in the next issue of Where’s Eric!