Saddled with a cold and evidently stuffed to the gills with antihistamines, ol’ Waylon Jennings wasn’t in top shape Thursday at the House of Blues. But his hourlong second set proved he still possesses the qualities that made him one of the most innovative country singers in the ’60s and ’70s. Plus, he looks better than he has in many years.
Ironically, Jennings’ “new” label — RCA — is his old one; after spells at MCA and Sony, the singer has come full circle to the company that he recorded with during his glory years, a period that included the 1976 release of what’s reportedly the first platinum-certified country album, “The Outlaws.”
Jennings opened slowly, distracted (it seemed) by his cold and some onstage sound problems. A couple of numbers into the show, for the second verse of “Good-Hearted Woman,” the energy level rose considerably. He drew heavily from the new album “Waymore’s Blues (Part II),” which is heavy on braggadocio in rhyming couplets, and light on romance or much of anything else. He then added a few longtime favorites, including “Dreaming My Dreams,” the raucous “Honky-Tonk Heroes” and “This Time.”
One thing that appeared in regrettably short doses was Jennings’ steely lead guitar. The few times that he did stretch out, his trading licks with steel player (and longtime Nashville studio vet) Fred Newell and bandleader-guitarist Jerry Bridges were just spectacular.
Jennings’ wife of a quarter-century, Jessi Colter, joined him for duets of “Suspicious Minds” and “Deep in the West.” She performed her own “What’s Happened to Blue Eyes” and a cute number about how she’d like to call a convention of Jennings’ ex-wives.
A quick encore by Jennings of “Ain’t Living Long Like This” and it was all over — more promise than delivery, this time, but signs are good for the future.