by Julian Spivey
I’ve become somewhat of a concert addict. Over the last decade I’ve been to numerous shows and the last few years I’ve averaged at least 10 concerts a year. So, my concert bucket list had thankfully gotten low, but there was an artist my wife, Aprille, referred to as our (she goes to these shows with me) “white whale” – Alan Jackson.
I don’t know why Alan Jackson stays clear of Arkansas, but I don’t believe he’s performed in my home state in more than a decade. So, I had to chase that neon rainbow clear to St. Charles, Mo. to catch a glimpse of this whale who performed at the Family Arena with Lee Ann Womack on Friday, September 8.
The 2017 Country Music Hall of Fame inductee performed a terrific set of hits throughout the night and boy does he have plenty of them. Over his 27-year career Jackson has accumulated 26 No. 1 hits and he performed 14 of them on Friday night.
Jackson’s “Keepin’ It Country” tour is essentially a continuation of his 25th anniversary tour that he began two years ago. It’s basically a chance for Jackson to thank his many fans over the years and play hits spanning the length of his career. The show on Friday night began with a little video commemorating this and culminated in Jackson singing part of his 1994 No. 1 “Gone Country.”
The hits wouldn’t let up for the next 90-minutes or so and the multiple-time CMA and ACM-award winning male vocalist sounded as good as ever throughout the show performing modern classics like “Little Bitty,” “I Don’t Even Know Her Name,” “Livin’ on Love” and “Who’s Cheatin’ Who.”
Basically, the only non-hit of the evening was Jackson’s cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “The Blues Man,” which has always seemed to have great meaning to him. Speaking of Williams’, it was somewhat surprising that Jackson didn’t perform his cover of Don Williams’ “It Must Be Love,” which he topped the charts with in 2000, given that the Country Music Hall of Famer had passed away earlier in the day. Maybe Jackson doesn’t like to change his set lists up on the fly like that. Lee Ann Womack had covered Williams’ “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good” in her opening set earlier in tribute.
I did wind up having one complaint with Jackson’s show. I’m not one to tell artists what they should and shouldn’t include in their set list, but I absolutely can’t stand when artists tease fans with either medleys or abridged versions of songs. Jackson did this quite often and with some of his best songs like his first hit 1989’s “Here in the Real World,” my personal favorite of his, and “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.” Why didn’t he just perform the entirety of these songs? He didn’t have anywhere to go. We didn’t have anywhere to go. And, his set only lasted about 90 minutes, which is honestly kind of short for an artist of his stature. I sure would’ve preferred full versions of those two previously mentioned songs over entire selections of recent hits like “Good Time” and “Country Boy.”
Jackson saved his fan-favorite performances for the end of his show when he rattled off major hits like “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” three days before the 16th anniversary of 9/11, “Remember When,” “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Chattahoochee,” which was probably the winner for crowd favorite of the show.
Jackson finished his set with the popular “Where I Come From,” a No. 1 from 2001, before returning to the stage for an encore of “Mercury Blues,” which really rocked.
It was terrific to finally get the chance to see this living legend in concert.
Womack, another artist I was thrilled to see for the first time, put on a fantastic opening set that included her greatest hits, as well as a couple of tunes off her upcoming album to be released in October. The former CMA Female Vocalist of the Year winner has one of the absolute best voices in the history of country music and she really shows it off on classic-sounding tunes like “I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” the CMA Single of the Year from 2005. Womack performed many of her most well-known hits like “I Hope You Dance,” “A Little Past Little Rock” and “Never Again Again” during her opening set, while also including newer performances like 2015’s “The Way I’m Livin’” and “All the Trouble” and a cover of the Lefty Frizzell classic “Long Black Veil,” which will appear on The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone in October.