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2024 Outlaw Music Festival fires off without Willie Nelson.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss dazzled, Lukas Nelson rocked and Bob Dylan stunned them all by playing three covers never heard live.

Alexander Sink

June 21, 2024

Ameris Bank Amphitheater; Alpharetta, GA

The 2024 installment of the Outlaw Music Festival got off with a bang on June 21st but was noticeably missing its host and headliner, 91-year-old Willie Nelson. Just hours before showtime, patrons were notified that Nelson would not be playing that night and still has yet to join the tour. As of now, he is set to pick up with the other outlaws the week of July 1st, and Nelson is also slated to host his annual 4th of July picnic in Philadelphia for the first time. Both will be contingent upon his health next week.

Patrons at Ameris Bank Amphitheater did not let the cancellation or sweltering heat dampen their spirits and were upbeat throughout the night. Opening support artist, Celisse, really earned her money in the early slot but by the time she left the stage the lower portion of the crowd gave her a standing ovation. Her honest blues and banter with the crowd quickly made her a fan favorite and someone you hope to see again down the line.

The crowd continued to fill in as Robert Plant and Alison Krauss hit the stage around 6:45 and the first breeze was felt as the Tall, Cool One appeared to meet his angelic singing mate at mid-stage. Plant and Krauss put out their first album together “Raising Sand” in 2007, which was followed up by “Raise the Roof” in 2021. Both of these albums were met with critical acclaim. The decision to go this route by Plant came as a shock to many who expected Zeppelin to start playing some shows and possibly tour in 2007. Plant and his mates opted to not go that route and that decision has produced some great music by the folk-rock duo.

For those of you that are not familiar with Alison Krauss, she is an Illinois-born bluegrass singer, known most for singing with Union Station and solo work. She was introduced to many Americans on the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack and her angelic voice has resonated through the Appalachians ever since. The two are an unlikely duo, but given Plants heavy love of the blues and the music of Ralph Stanley, the duo were able to create a new sound that really has no label other than great music. They played a setlist that covered early American folk and rock covers as well as covers of Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”, “When The Levee Breaks” and “The Battle of Evermore”. The Led Zeppelin recording of the latter included Sandy Denny* singing the female parts and Krauss filled in for these beautifully. Their entire set included:

1. “Rich Woman” (Li’l Millet and His Creoles cover)

2. “Fortune Teller” (Benny Spellman cover)

3. “Can’t Let Go” (Randy Weeks cover)

4. “The Price of Love” (The Everly Brothers cover)

5. “Rock and Roll” (Led Zeppelin)

6. “Please Read the Letter” (Plant and Page cover)

7. “High and Lonesome”

8. “In the Mood” / “Matty Groves” / “Gallows Pole”

9. “The Battle of Evermore” (Led Zeppelin)

10. “When the Levee Breaks” (Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy cover)

11. “Gone Gone Gone” (The Everly Brothers cover)

The poet and king of minimalism, Bob Dylan, kept the party rolling as the sun finally gave way to shade. Dylan out-outlawed the rest by moseying out onto the stage and playing three classic covers for the first time in his career. The most notable was a tribute to the original outlaw, Hank Williams, with a great cover of “Cold, Cold Heart”. He also played a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie” and “The Fool” by Sanford Clark for the first time in his career. This was the first big shakeup in years to Dylan’s set and it kept the crowd on its toes and enjoying the Southern revival on stage.

Bob Dylan’s complete setlist included”

1. “My Babe” (Willie Dixon cover)

2. “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'”

3. “Simple Twist of Fate”

4. “Little Queenie” (Chuck Berry cover)

5. “Mr. Blue” (The Fleetwoods cover)

6. “Pay in Blood”

7. “Cold, Cold Heart” (Hank Williams With His Drifting Cowboys cover)

8. “Early Roman Kings”

9. “Under the Red Sky” (first performance since 2013)

10. “Things Have Changed”

11. “The Fool” (Sanford Clark cover)

12. “Scarlet Town”

13. “Long and Wasted Years”

With Willie Nelson out sick, it was up to Lukas Nelson and the Nelson Family Band to finish the night and rock the campfire for the crowd. Lukas Nelson did not only not disappoint, he made fans out of the entire amphitheater. The set was high energy all around and Nelson had the opportunity to showcase his rock and blues guitar solos, as well as his ability to nail the old classic staples that will be handed down by Willie. Lukas’s vocals are so similar to his father’s that much of the night involved closing my eyes and enjoying the nostalgia of the music in the air.

Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks surprised the grateful crowd and joined the Nelson Family Band on stage for multiple songs. Their collective performance of “Find Yourself” was one for the ages and featured solos by Lukas Nelson and Derek Trucks. It was a performance that I have enjoyed the memory of since I left the amphitheater.

The final setlist of the night was as follows:

1. “Whiskey River” (Johnny Bush cover)

2. “Stay a Little Longer” (Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys cover)

3. “Funny How Time Slips Away / Crazy / Night Life” (Willie Nelson cover)

4. “Just Outside of Austin” (Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real song)

5. “You Were Always on My Mind” (Gwen McCrae cover)

6. “Où es-tu, mon amour? / I Never Cared for You (Willie Nelson cover)

7. “(Forget About) Georgia” (Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real song)

8. “Georgia (on My Mind)” (Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra cover)

9. “Workin’ Man Blues” (Merle Haggard cover) (with Tedeschi & Trucks)

10. “Find Yourself” (Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real song) (with Tedeschi and Trucks)

11. “Bloody Mary Morning” (Willie Nelson cover) (with Susan Tedeschi & Derek Trucks)

12. “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” (Willie Nelson cover)

13. “Somebody Pick Up My Pieces” (Willie Nelson cover) (with Tedeschi & Trucks)

14. “On the Road Again”(Willie Nelson cover) (with Tedeschi & Trucks

15. “Will the Circle Be Unbroken? / I’ll Fly Away” (William MacEwan / Rev. J.M. Gates covers)

Even with this great performance, we all wish Willie Nelson a speedy recovery and hope that he can get on the road again soon.

*Sandy Denny was an old friend and recording mate of Jimmy Page and was considered an additional member of Led Zeppelin during the recording of their 4th Album. This album introduced symbols for each member, including one for Sandy Denny, who was represented with 3 equilateral triangles. Denny is the only person, other than Robert Plant, to sing lead vocals on any of their songs.

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