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Alan Jackson’s Nashville Show Relies on Emotions, Memories

Alan Jackson Nashville
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Alan Jackson is an artist with his own tempo: never rushed, rarely too casual, almost always right for the moment. During Friday night’s (May 19) show in Nashville his ballads stung the heart, while uptempo tracks like “Tall Tall Trees” and “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” reminded one what the radio is missing.

It wasn’t a night for fans of the more progressive generation — Jackson’s memories, quiet charm and morality risk coming across as old-fashioned to fans recently crossed over from pop — but the singer knew his audience. “Remember When” and “Drive” hurt best when you’ve lived and loved and raised a few kids. Even a song as specific as “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” offered some new emotion 16 years later. This was a rare amphitheater show during which an audience seated is a high compliment.

The longtime hitmaker brought great enthusiasm to the scenic Ascend Amphitheater. An abbreviated “Gone Country” led to “I Don’t Even Know Your Name” and “Livin’ on Love.” A cover of Hank Williams, Jr.‘s “Blues Man” was an early highlight. The band was featured during nearly every song, but their restraint while filling and soloing here was special.

The 58-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame inductee ping-ponged between tempos here and on many occasions. Switching between the aching “You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore” and “Who’s Cheatin’ Who” took commitment. “Remember When” fell between “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere.” Even his three-song encore (“Mercury Blues,” a cover of the Eagles‘ “Seven Bridges Road” and “Dixie Highway”) was unusually dynamic, but really he could have sung Lady Gaga by that point, as he returned to the stage in his very own Nashville Predators jersey.

Opening acts Adam Wright and Lee Ann Womack both returned to the stage as part of Jackson’s nearly two-hour-long night. After a pleasing version of “I’ll Go on Loving You” the two legendary country voices mostly fumbled through “Murder on Music Row,” which was a disappointment in that the crowd would have called the song a highlight had they been better prepared.

Throughout the night Jackson reached back not just for songs, but for memories. Some, like discovering his wife was pregnant just as his very first single died an ugly death on the country airplay chart, were personal. Others were a reminder that he’s also a fine, even-keel songwriter. “Wanted” came from a morning alone in a Pine Bluff, Ark., motel room. “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” — the softest of his keep it country messages — was inspired by a wobbly old honky tonk jukebox.

We’ve heard him tell the stories of “Drive” and “Remember When” a thousand times, but they don’t get old. Storytelling is Jackson’s great gift, whether he’s singing or not.

Alan Jackson Has Always Kept It Country … Here’s Proof!

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