LOS ANGELES— Willie Nelson’s Hollywood Bowl 90th birthday celebration is headed for the concert history books.
“Long Story Short: Willie Nelson 90,” the power-packed two-night event, kicked off Saturday (Nelson’s birthday) after blowing up to epic proportions with late-breaking additions to the bill.
“This is one of those weekends that people are going to be talking about forever,” musician Lyle Lovett told USA TODAY from the backstage red carpet. “I just said, ‘Yes’ immediately. I was honored to be asked.”
The line-up of performers – from Snoop Dogg to Chris Stapleton, The Chicks to Tom Jones – just “shows the power of Willie Nelson,” Lovett said. “There’s nobody like him. Everyone here has Willie Nelson in common, we’re all automatically friends because of him. The world needs that and the world needs Willie.”
Chris Stapleton to The Chicks carried the early concert
Nelson let his music superstars carry the concert’s first three hours. Kris Kristofferson joined Rosanne Cash to sing his song “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again).” Cash poignantly allowed the 87-year-old Kristofferson to sing the final words solo. As he walked odd the stage with Cash, an emotional Kristofferson saluted the audience, who gave a standing ovation.
Helen Mirren introduced fellow British performer Tom Jones who marveled at Nelson’s vitality. “I’m 83, I have something to look forward to,” said Jones, before breaking into “Opportunity to Cry.”
Bobby Weir sang “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and The Chicks performed a rowdy version of “Bloody Mary Morning.” Jennifer Garner introduced Miranda Lambert, who wore a red-and-black jumpsuit with audacious red fringe to perform “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”
Chris Stapleton performed soulful versions of “Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning” and “Always on My Mind.”
Before singing his song, “Willie Got Me Stoned,” Jack Johnson alluded to a backstage party that might have been keeping Nelson off the concert stage.
“It’s a party. We’re having a good time back there,” Johnson said.
Nelson performed with Snoop Dogg, George Strait, Neil Young
A beaming Nelson finally strode onstage more than three hours into the concert, taking a seat to join Neil Young for “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?”
“I want to thank all the artists for helping to celebrate whatever we’re celebrating,” Nelson joked after the song ended.
He sang two songs with country music legend George Strait – “Sing One With Willie” and “Poncho and Lefty” – before bringing his friend Snoop Dogg to the stage.
“Hey Snoop, come on out here and help me roll one up,” Nelson said as the rapper, wielding a gold microphone, took a seat beside him to sing, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” Snoop Dogg suggested the song be performed “in the key of smoke.”
Nelson was not shy about his birthday. After playing a joyful version of his classic “On the Road Again,” Nelson started serenading himself with “Happy Birthday to Me” from the stage.
The celebrant continued the humor with his final song, Mac Davis’ classic, “Hard to Be Humble” with the lyrics, “I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ’cause I get better looking each day.”
Nelson still had the energy to forcefully throw his cowboy hat into the crowd during the final standing ovation. “We’ll see you tomorrow night,” he said.
Who else is performing at Willie Nelson’s birthday weekend?
Other performers at the weekend birthday concerts include Beck, Billy Strings, Booker T. Jones, Buddy Cannon, Charley Crockett, Daniel Lanois, Dave Matthews, Dwight Yoakam, Edie Brickell, Emmylou Harris, Gary Clark Jr., Leon Bridges, Lily Meola, Lukas Nelson, Margo Price, Norah Jones, Orville Peck, Particle Kid, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Stephen Stills, Sturgill Simpson, The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, Tyler Childers and Ziggy Marley.
“We put a thoughtful list together of Willie’s close friends and the family of musicians that Willie has either recorded wor toured with,” executive producer Keith Wortman said. “And that just happens to be a very large list.”
Want more of Willie? Read on:
All in the family: Brings in his sons and daughters for the first time on ‘Willie Nelson Family’ album
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2023 nominees: George Michael, Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson top the list
Not going anywhere: Willie Nelson declares he’s ‘Still Not Dead’
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Willie Nelson’s 90th birthday concert stars Snoop Dogg, Chris Stapleton