Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Concert Review--Merle Haggard, July 4, 2005, Ohkay Casino, Espanola, NM

If you asked yourself, who would the single best musician to see on the 4th of July was, could you do better than Merle Haggard? I didn't think so. When I heard about this show I thought, "$28 is a lot to see someone but you know how many chances you are going to have to see the Hag on the 4th of July? One." So we put down the cash and went.

I can't say that I regretted going. For a man who is about 70 years old, he still puts on a hell of a show. He's energetic, he's clearly having fun on stage, and he plays a guitar much better than I thought he would. He can put together a pretty decent little solo. Haggard played quite a few of the classics. "Big City", "Mama Tried", "Lonesome Fugitive", etc. And given it was the 4th of July, I was even happy to hear "Fighting Side of Me". But let's face it, that's one ugly song. Really I wish he had never written it. You can look at "Okie From Muskogee" as a bit of satire and a bit of a tribute to his father and you can think that Merle doesn't really believe what he's singing. After all, the Hag was known to smoke a bit of marijuana in his time, whether in Muskogee or not. "Fighting Side of Me", well that's just a mean-spirited song. I'm not really sure whether or not he really means it. After all, he was one of the first people to come out with a song opposed to the Iraq war. But still, damn.

In any case, when he sang "Silver Wings" I thought, does it get any better than this? Merle Haggard, July 4, "Silver Wings." How many moments in your life do you have like that? Does American music get better than this? I just don't know.

On the other hand, it's far from the best show I've seen. I don't expect too much from the Ohkay Casino, but they put everyone in a parking lot. It was about 97 that afternoon. There were opening bands but I couldn't bear to go sit out there and listen to them since I needed to save myself in that heat for the Hag. And Merle was definitely affected too. He only played for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. I'm not sure if he usually plays such short shows, but from talking to him it sounded like he just needed to get out of the damn heat. Plus the stage faced west right into the evening sun. It was hard not to rue paying that much money for that small amount of music.

But still, I can say that I saw Merle Haggard on July 4 and that he was great. July 4 or not, he plays enough around America that everyone reading this blog should go see him at least once. It was my second time and I hope that the third comes around soon.