All in the family

Willie Nelson rings in New Year’s Eve at ACL Live with a family affair

Willie Nelson rings in New Year’s Eve at ACL Live with a family affair

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Willie Nelson Photo by Rick Kern
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Ringing in the New Year. Photo by Rick Kern
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Celebrating the start to 2012 Photo by Rick Kern
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Willie Nelson Photo by Rick Kern
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Close up of Willie Nelson's guitar. Photo by Rick Kern
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The Gourds with special guest Dennis Quaid Photo by Rick Kern
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The Gourds Photo by Rick Kern
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Ray Price Photo by Rick Kern
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Ray Price Photo by Rick Kern
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The audience inside The Moody Theater. Photo by Rick Kern
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Lukas Nelson Photo by Rick Kern
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Lukas Nelson Photo by Rick Kern
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Talent runs through Nelson veins. From music to art, Willie Nelson and his family come armed with a full entertainment arsenal. Nelson shared the stage at his New Year’s Eve show at the Moody Theater with a few of his talented family members, sons Lukas and Micah, daughter Amy, and as always, his sister Bobbie and the rest of the Family Band.

The evening started off with a smooth set from Nelson’s long-time friend and collaborator Ray Price. Amy Nelson and her group Folk Uke sang a few songs and then it was time for a little rock and roll from Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. While Lukas performed, brother Micah painted at the side of the stage, bopping his head and brush to the beat. 

Amy returned to the stage to sing a few songs with Lukas. After a short intermission, Dad Willie walked out dressed in black. The crowd gave him a standing ovation as a large Texas flag dropped behind the stage and Nelson broke into "Whiskey River."  The full house stood for much of Nelson’s set that included "Good Hearted Woman," "Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" and "On the Road Again."  The Willie Nelson Family Band included a few bonuses, with Lukas on electric guitar, Micah on snare drum and Amy on background vocals. The crowd at Moody Theater ate every bit of Nelson’s set up, loudly singing along with his slew of hit songs.

As midnight approached, the crowd cheered when a few surprise guests showed up: Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Nashville's Jamey Johnson joined Nelson and family on stage and father time descended from the ceiling to the stage. Balloons dropped and the singing of "Auld Lang Syne" soon turned to "Happy Birthday to You" for Bobbie Nelson, whose birthday is January 1. 

Willie Nelson wrapped up his set with an interesting combination of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," "I’ll Fly Away," "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die" and "I Saw the Light."

The one glaring absence Saturday night was Nelson’s long-time bassist and friend, Dan "Bee" Spears, who died of exposure in early December after falling outside his Nashville area home. Earlier in the day Saturday, Spears was remembered at a memorial. Between sets at Saturday’s show, the words “In Memory of Bee Spears 1949-2011” appeared on the wall behind the stage. Spears was part of the Willie Nelson Family Band for more than 40 years and will be dearly missed.