Willie Nelson in Des Moines: What to know before the country legend returns to Iowa
A look back at CBS's "A Country Music Celebration: The 30th Anniversary of the Country Music Association" TV special taped at the Grand Ole Opry House 30 years ago on Jan. 7, 1988 Wochit
Willie Nelson’s on the road again and included on his list of spring stops is a night at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Bringing with him a trio of country staples, the world-known troubadour returns April 11 to play Iowa's largest indoor stage. Here's what you need to know before heading out to the month's big country show.
Meet 'the family'
Not one, not two but three country music staples join Nelson on this spring run of dates, coined the “Willie Nelson and Family” tour.
- Dwight Yoakam
- Robert Earl Keen
- Brandy Clark
A Grammy Award-winning performer, Yoakam returns to Iowa following the release of 2016’s “Swimmin’ Pools and Movie Stars.” A breakout in the 1980s, notable Yoakam takes include “Honky Tonk Man,” “Fast As You” and “Ain’t That Lonely Yet.”
A tenured performer with nearly 20 studio releases under his belt, Keen’s been turning his version of Texas country since the 1980s. “The Front Porch Song” and “Feelin’ Good Again” singer last played Des Moines in 2014, at Hoyt Sherman Place.
The “Love Can Go To Hell” singer Clark last released an album in 2016, the Grammy Award-nominated “Big Day in a Small Town.” Along with touring her own music, Clark’s known for co-writing standout country numbers like Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow.”
Still not dead, eh?
Everyone wants to hear the hits, sure, and Nelson likely won’t leave the stage without giving fans “Whiskey River,” but his latest Iowa stop does come in support of a new studio record. “Last Man Standing,” one of the Kennedy Center honoree’s 70-plus studio releases, drops April 27. The album comes in follow-up to 2017’s “God’s Problem Child.”
Nelson released the album’s title track in February. It features collaborator Buddy Cannon, Rolling Stone reports, and — with the track “Still Not Dead” — pokes fun at Nelson’s recent string of health concerns. Nelson, who turns 85 on April 29, cancelled a number of shows earlier this year, citing the flu as reason.
Nelson’s last time in central Iowa saw him in 2016 headline the second year of Hinterland Music Festival, bringing roughly 10,000 fans to rural St. Charles for the show. He played for about 75 minutes, a setlist including 1971 number “Me and Paul,” Nelson staple “On The Road Again” and Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On The Bayou).”
Notable past Des Moines shows from Shotgun Willie of late include a 2013 performance at the Des Moines Civic Center and a 2004 co-headlining gig with Bob Dylan at Principal Park. The Wells Fargo Arena show is one of two Iowa dates in April, with an April 13 show scheduled at Five Flags Event Center in Dubuque.
Similarly, Yoakam played Hinterland in 2017, a 16-song, hour-long set in support of the evening’s headliner, Ryan Adams. Yoakam’s set included “Honky Tonk Man,” “Guitars, Cadillac,” as well as a nod to Merle Haggard with “Mama Tried” and “Okie from Muskogee.”
All who plan to attend the show will pass through a full-body metal detector prior to entering the arena. Arena officials suggest show-goers plan for additional time to enter the building. Music kicks off at 6:20 p.m., the events center website says.
Iowa Events Center security protocol prohibits items such as drugs and illegal substances, weapons of any type, and outside food or drink to enter the arena for shows. A full breakdown of what can and can’t be brought in is listed at iowaeventscenter.com.
Parking and tickets
Tickets cost $49.50, $63.50, $83.50, $98.50, $129.50 and $149.50 before fees and are still available at the time of publication. Tickets can be purchased via Hy-VeeTix.com, at the Wells Fargo Arena box office or at participating Des Moines and Ames Hy-Vee locations.
The Iowa Events Center offers event parking lots north of Wells Fargo Arena for $8 per vehicle on a first-come, first-served basis. Metered street parking, and ramps, varying in cost, can be found throughout downtown. A full list of parking options can be found at downtowndesmoines.com.
Willie Nelson and Family tour
Who: Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Robert Earl Keen and Brandy Clark
When: 6:20 p.m., April 11
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, 233 Center St.
More information: iowaeventscenter.com.