by John A. Zara
At 81 years young, Willie Nelson showed he still has the performance fire of someone half his age. Throughout the evening at Daniel Island's Family Circle Cup, he encouraged singalongs and some good old-fashioned rowdiness.
After the oversized Texas state flag dropped near the back of the stage, Nelson and company opened with the essential "Whisky River." Donning a black cowboy hat, which he tossed into the crowd after a few songs, Nelson eventually switched to his iconic red bandanna. He kept a stash of the red rags just within reach and every couple of songs, he'd toss the one on his head into the crowd before popping on another.
The Red-Headed Stranger didn't disappoint with classics like "Crazy," "You Were Always on My Mind," and "On the Road Again". He also covered a few Hank Williams tunes including, "Jambalaya" and "Hey Good Lookin'." After all these years, Nelson's vocals were sharp, and the guitar playing damn fine, too.
Not to be overlooked was Alison Krauss and the Union Station featuring dobro master Jerry Douglas. Taking the stage just before Nelson, she and the band gracefully proved that after 20-plus years, they are one of the top bluegrass acts around. They reached into their catalog for gems like "Let Me Touch You for Awhile" and "Ghost in This House." Krauss jokingly introduced Dan Tyminski as "the voice of George Clooney." A few songs later they ripped through a blazing "Man Of Constant Sorrow," always a crowd favorite. The highlights of the set, however, came in the form of a capella versions of "When You Say Nothing At All" and "Whiskey Lullaby."