021518 Willie Nelson: CANCELLED, Clearwater, FL

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As should be quite clear from the handwritten note scrawled across my ticket, on February 15th, 2018 I did not see Willie Nelson at the Ruth Eckert Hall in Clearwater, Florida.  In fact nobody did; Willie cancelled the show on the advice of his doctors, who told the tour-happy octogenarian that he needed a bit of a rest.

I forget if I had purchased the pair of tickets before I booked myself a trip to Florida or vice-versa, but either way going to the sunshine state for a week or less was a no-brainer.  My mom has had a winter place just north of Tampa for a long time and a few years ago my brother and his wife bought their own snowbird nest just a few miles from hers, and all three of them spend the bulk of January-through-May down there avoiding snow (and stray bullets – much of Florida is a gun-totin’, gun-lovin’ area that seems rife with random shootings).  I make a point of going down nearly every year.

I also tend to scour the local entertainment venues for tickets that might make nice Christmas gifts for the three of them, which is how I found the Willie show.  I bought two tickets – good seats too – thinking that one of my family members would be happy to join me for a free concert.  As it turns out I was completely wrong about that, as when I mentioned to each of them that they missed a free Willie show they all said they wouldn’t have been interested anyway.


I was really disappointed that the show had been cancelled, though I needn’t have been.  Though I had seen Willie several times before (and enjoyed every show) his advancing age made me really, really want to see this tour, a concern that was bolstered when the show was cancelled on Nelson’s doctor’s advice.  

So when I say I was disappointed, what I really meant to say was that I was worried.  Worried I might have missed my last opportunity to hear Willie Nelson play live.  But of course I hadn’t.

When Willie announced his Outlaw Festival tour later that summer I had my second chance, and when I saw that Neil Young was to be on the bill for the tour’s stop in Saratoga Springs, New York I was all over tickets.  

And here’s the irony:  While I really enjoyed the whole multi-band concert at SPAC, Willie’s set registered the lowest on my enjoyment scale when compared both to the acts of the day and to all the other times I had seen him.  As a matter of fact, after his Outlaw set I pretty much swore off of buying tickets to Willie Nelson concerts.  

And so, had he not cancelled this Clearwater date I would have gone to the show and probably been underwhelmed enough to have sworn off Willie tickets then, which would have kept me from buying tickets to the Outlaw fest, which would in turn have prevented me from seeing amazing sets by Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Rateliff, and the great, great Neil Young & the Promise of the Real that September night in Saratoga Springs, which would have been a shame.

So in retrospect my disappointed was turned to happiness, as it often is.

Oh, and kudos to the people at Ruth Eckert Hall who were so good about refunding my ticket money (and letting me keep the voided stubs).

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