Saturday was a good night to be a cowboy in the Garden City.
While the James Brown Arena continued holding Augusta Futurity events, with the University of South Carolina Aiken PBR Bull Riding, music fans headed to Bell Auditorium, where music legend Willie Nelson was holding court.
Undeterred by the premium on parking caused by the number of livestock pens and trailer displays set up for the Futurity, the Willie Nelson nation packed the Bell.
Temporarily pressed into traffic duty, Augusta Entertainment Complex general manager Monty Jones admitted that while parking has been a smoother operation in the past, he'll take the crowded lots.
"This is a pretty good problem to have," he said.
The show opened with a performance by Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real. Willie's 21-year-old son led his band through a sturdy set of barroom blues and Americana rock in a voice reminiscent of his famous father's.
By the time he finished his short electric set (imagine Jimi Hendrix possessed by the distinctive vocal style of Willie Nelson), the Bell was close to capacity. By the time Willie Nelson stepped onto the stage a short time later, it was.
"We had about 190 tickets left earlier this afternoon," said Augusta Entertainment Complex marketing manager Kayla Ott. "And those all went."
Playing Trigger, his distinctively distressed acoustic guitar, and dressed in a black hat, T-shirt and jeans, Nelson opened the show with Whiskey River off the Shotgun Willie album.
Over the course of the evening, he rolled through song after song in front of an oversized Texas flag, barely pausing between tunes. The set was filled with his own compositions and his distinctive cover interpretations.
A show built around music rather than onstage antics, it was a distinguished showing by one of American music's elder statesmen.
A good night for cowboys indeed.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gallery: See more photos from the concert