WATCH: Robert Earl Keen Closes ‘Austin City Limits’ with ‘I Gotta Go’

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)

Robert Earl Keen announced his final tour earlier this year. His I’m Comin’ Home Tour saw him making more than 50 stops across the United States. He hit legendary country music venues like the Ryman Auditorium and Cain’s Ballroom. Keen but the bow on more than 4 decades of touring with a final show at John T. Floore’s Country Store in Helotes, Texas in September.

Now, more than a month after his final farewell, fans are doubtlessly still looking back on Robert Earl Keen’s legendary live shows. Well, there’s some good news. While Keen was taking his victory lap around the country, he recorded a set for Austin City Limits.

Robert Earl Keen Says Goodbye to ACL

This episode marks Robert Earl Keen’s seventh appearance on the show. That night, he shared the stage with his fellow Texan Parker McCollum. Jambase reports that Keen’s set included five songs from his decades-long catalog.

Currently, we don’t know how Robert Earl Keen opened his ACL set. But, we do know how he closed it. Watch Keen cap of the night in the most fitting way with “I Gotta Go” below.

“You can take this one with you,” Keen told the crowd before ripping into the song. Today, watching Keen, his band, and legendary producer/pedal steel player Lloyd Maines play this tune is heavy. In the video above, we’re watching the end of an era.

Robert Earl Keen’s farewell Austin City Limits performance airs this Saturday, October 29th. Check your local PBS listings for airtimes. Additionally, you’ll be able to watch the full ACL episode on the PBS website immediately after it airs.

“I Gotta Go”

Robert Earl Keen released “I Gotta Go” as the lead single from his 2011 album Ready for Confetti. In the eleven years since its release, the song has become one of Keen’s most popular tunes. Right now, it has 6.3 million streams on Spotify alone. This puts it neck-and-neck with REK’s classic “The Road Goes on Forever.”

The song tells the story of an outlaw, born on the Day of the Dead. He lives a hard life that ends after a high-stakes poker game. While this isn’t Robert Earl Keen’s story, it was a fitting way to cap his final Austin City Limits performance. “I gotta go somewhere / I gotta go / Wastin’ time standin’ here / I gotta go,” he sings in the chorus. While Keen would probably never say that time onstage was wasted, he knew it was time for him to go.

When he announced his farewell tour, Keen said, “I’m a strong believer in clarity and truth. As much as I love what I do, it’s more important that I do it well, or not at all. I feel making a decision and quitting while I still love it is the way I wanna leave it.”

He was still doing what he did better than anyone else when he walked off the stage for the last time.