They don’t get much more iconic than Willie Nelson, Georgia’s 75-year-old outlaw.

For two hours he commanded the Civic stage like a lion, banging out song after song, many of which have entered the Great American Songbook.

"Did he write that?" I asked my friend after a yearning Help Me Make It Through The Night?


And so many more.

With a four-piece band behind him providing colouring rather than virtuosity, the spotlight was firmly on Willie and his battered guitar. The intention was to fit in as many songs as possible, hardly letting the applause die down before striking up another classic.

You can slot WIllie Nelson in alongside Bob Dylan and Neil Young as a bearer of the torch of true roots Americana.

Taking a bit from country, a bit from the blues and an awful lot of soul, his cosmic blend is as big as the southern states he holds dear.

Nelson’s guitar-playing is a thing of wonder. He plucks his battered acoustic like he’s plucking a chicken, an almost-ramshackle style that serves the songs so well. Little runs and atonal strums punctuate the lyrics with an easy intensity.

The show started off a little shakily with a wayward sound balance that was tamed within 15 minutes. Then came the realisation that we were in the presence of greatness.

Nelson’s voice has lost none of its authority. It bursts with the sort of authority that comes from charisma. There was little time to chat with the audience, too many songs to play for that. The occasional bandana thrown into the crowd was a nice touch.

Finishing with a trio of new songs, the house lights came up, leaving Nelson at the front of the stage signing autographs.

It was an amazingly generous performance from a master still at the top of his game.