The legendary outlaw threw a big party in Doswell, Va.
On a chilly, cloudy October night, thousands of diehard fans received a real lesson in country music history from a man who knows a thing or two: Hank Williams, Jr.
Hank Jr. took the stage at Meadow Event Park around 8:30 a.m. for a tight 77-minute set. The god of southern rock barely addressed a crowd, but when he did, it was always with a wink and a nod to his famous father.
The place itself is nestled in the lush greenery of central Virginia, right next to King’s Dominion Amusement Park. More fairground than an amphitheater, the field was lined with vendors selling everything from whiskey to fried Oreos. The opening of the hall – filled with the dance floor behind the “tech world” booth – lent itself to a party atmosphere that seemed to allow Hank Jr. and his company to push him even harder.
Fan favorites “OD’d in Denver”, “Weatherman” and “Kaw-Liga” were in attendance. Thousands of people sang louder than Hank Jr. on “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound”. Every three or four songs he changed his hat. During a hat change, he made fun of the Kid Rock family friend and collaborator. “This ain’t no Kid Rock shit hat,” he said. ‘This is a Stetson Hank Williams Senior 1950 F ** kin’ model! “
The crowd loved hearing Williams say it like it is. Hank Jr. has shredded on guitar with the intensity of someone who’s sick of the country music posers that have been popping up lately. And, he shot those who had wronged him in his career. Before “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight,” Junior made it clear to the crowd, “Thirty-two, three Emmy Awards, eight Super Bowls, and I wrote the f ** king song!” He was referring to the long-standing use of “Rowdy Friends” as an NFL theme.
For those who don’t know, Hank Jr. is a multi-instrumental genius. He went from guitar to violin to piano throughout the evening. It makes southern rock shredding effortless.
Williams’ setlist was a real education in the history of country music. He taught the crowd the lineage that carried him, with a rendition of “Your Cheatin ‘Heart” on the piano. He also paid tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash with “Whole Lotta Shakin ‘Goin’ On” and “Walk the Line”, respectively. He also nodded to ZZ Top – who recently lost bassist Dusty Hill – with a fiery rendition of “Waitin ‘on the Bus”.
Indeed, Hank Jr. occupies a unique space in country music. Both considered an outlaw, he is also seen as the protector of his father’s legacy. It’s no more obvious than the song “The Conversation” with its line “Did your dad really write all those million dollar songs? The Hank of that song refused to answer. But on stage, Hank is clearly proud that his daddy actually wrote these songs.
This article is part of a new series called “Reviews on the Road”. TMU travels to report on the return of live music across the country. We are proud to document this important period in entertainment history. Check out our podcast for more in-depth discussions on this topic, and stay tuned for more gigs in more states. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the locations you think we should check out.