“I came to Nashville in 1985 to play real country music,” Alan Jackson told the audience at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night (April 11). Mission accomplished. The entertainer is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his debut album with a tour and more country music, coming this summer.
Onstage, music videos playing in the background showed the evolution of Jackson’s career (and the simultaneous evolution of video technology). His set went from 1991’s “Midnight In Montgomery” to 2008’s “Country Boy” and beyond. What hasn’t changed much is Jackson’s image and penchant for quality songs. Two and a half decades later, he’s still a classic in a cowboy hat, a laid back performer who mostly lets the songs speak for themselves. He played hit after hit: “Little Bitty,” “Summertime Blues,” “Livin’ On Love,” “Small Town Southern Man,” “Don’t Rock The Jukebox,” “As She’s Walking Away,” and too many others to list.
“Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning),” is just one example of Jackson’s knack for poignant observation. “I’m just a singer of simple songs, I’m not a real political man,” he wrote in the Grammy-winning, post-9/11 song. It hit home with the crowd in Nashville, which was largely populated with NRA conventioneers who cheered loudly for the lyric “did you go out and buy you a gun?”
Throughout the night Jackson offered brief glimpses into how his personal experiences relate to his music. He explained that after his father died he wanted to honor him but didn’t want to write a sad song, so he wrote “Drive (For Daddy Gene).” He dedicated “Remember When” to his mother-in-law who recently passed away. And he introduced “Here In The Real World” by recalling how it saved his career at a pivotal point. An early single “died a miserable death on the chart” around the same time wife Denise found out she was pregnant, but “…Real World” became the hit he needed.
“I had more hits on the radio,” he said. “I can’t even remember all the hits anymore… And I sold more records than I could have ever imagined.” Jackson thanked his fans, band and the people who helped him along the way, and he previewed “You Never Know,” from his forthcoming album Angels and Alcohol, set for release July 17.
Openers Jon Pardi and Jeff Foxworthy revved up the crowd with lively entertainment.