Texas Strong: Harvey Can’t Mess with Texas was an appropriate name for Friday’s benefit concert at the Frank Erwin Center on the UT campus. The first hour of the concert was streamed on YouTube and broadcast on some Texas TV stations. Proceeds went to the Dell Foundation’s Rebuild Texas fund. As of this writing, over $70M had been raised to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The ultimate headliner, Willie Nelson, began this concert as he traditionally does, singing his song Whiskey River. Charlie Sexton was the musical director, and Asleep at the Wheel was the house band. The concert featured an impressive line-up: Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Lyle Lovett, and many others. I’ll say more about the musicians in a minute.
Matthew McConaughey was the master of ceremonies for the televised hour. Between band changes, Renee Zellwegger, Luke Wilson, Andy Roddick, and other celebrities encouraged viewers to contribute to Rebuild Texas. Local officials, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, spoke about the hurricane rescue and recovery work. Even Jimmy Buffet contributed a video message.
In general, each musician or band performed one or two songs during the first hour. The broadcast portion ended with Willie leading a group rendition of On the Road Again. The Erwin Center audience had been warned to not leave after this first finale because the concert was continuing. The next two-plus hours of the concert were not broadcast, although some videos can be found on YouTube.
Lyle Lovett performed Simple Song, Blues for Dixie, and That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas). His bass player and cellist joined him on stage.
Bonnie Riatt played or sang with almost everyone. She sat on the side of the stage and watched the other musicians even when she wasn’t performing. Nathaniel Rateliff seemed a little too fanboy with her, but perhaps that was just our audience perspective.
James Taylor’s songs included Country Road, Sweet Baby James and Up on the Roof. He’s still got that wonderful tenor voice.
Paul Simon performed crowd favorites including America, The Boxer, and Men and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. His wife Edie Brickell joined him to sing Waltz Across Texas and You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly. She also performed with her New Bohemians band.
Other performers included Leon Bridges, Ruthie Foster, Little Joe y La Familia, Ha*Ash, Ryan Bingham, Martie Maquire, and Jimmie Vaughan.
Willie Nelson played more favorites including Still Not Dead and Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys. Everyone joined him on stage for a second finale of I’ll Fly Away and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. What an unforgettable evening!
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