A true country outlaw who spent his youth hanging with Willie and Waylon, Billie Joe Shaver is a classic American singer and songwriter. And at 73, the guy still has it. During a two-hour show at the Beachland Ballroom, he regaled the crowd with off-color stories about his troubled past as he pulled from his extensive catalogue of ballads, country rockers, and honky tonk anthems.
Dressed (as always) from head-to-toe in denim, Shaver sauntered onto the stage and humbly introduced himself as he said “I’m Billy Joe Shaver and these are some songs I’ve written over the years.” He then launched into “Heart of Texas,” a track he originally recorded with Waylon Jennings; from there he segued into “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train.” One of his best known tunes, the song benefited from a boisterous mid-song drum solo.
Shaver then talked openly about the incident in which he shot a man outside a bar in Texas in 2007. “I returned fire and shot him between the ‘mother’ and the ‘fucker,’” said Shaver before playing “Wacko from Waco,” a song he wrote about the shooting. Shaver’s emotions ran the gamut. At one moment, he was singing a beautiful a cappella tribute to his deceased son, guitar player Eddy Shaver, and at the next, he was cracking jokes about the time he tripped on acid. Despite Shaver’s cavalier attitude, the show’s centerpiece, the balled “Live Forever,” had an undeniable spiritual energy. “We’re up here having fun,” he laughed. “I do hope you are, too.” Even if you tried, you couldn’t have found a person in the audience who didn’t share Shaver’s enthusiasm.