When I found out I would be covering Alan Jackson on Friday night at Musikfest 2014, I will admit I had my reservations. Not about Alan Jackson, per se, but the fact that the event itself would be my first ever country music concert. Outside of Johnny Cash, my “country music” background is limited to old Southern rock & a little bit of the Zac Brown Band. I decided, however since, I know there will likely be more country music concerts in my future whether I like it or not, now was the time to pop my country music concert cherry.
The day started off on a bad note, as I woke up with terrible tooth pain that would require and emergency dental appointment the next day. I popped 2 extra strength Tylenol and prayed that this concert wouldn’t be worst than the root canal I would soon be having. As I walked into the concert, with my country-loving brother beside me to help guide me through this journey, I noticed the crowd at an Alan Jackson concert wasn’t what I expected. Lately when you hear about country music you hear all about the crazy tailgating, but outside of a few youngsters, the majority of the crowd looked more likely to have been shotgunning Ensure before the concert, not Coors Light. There was no opening act, which I found a bit odd as the gates opened at 630 P.M and Alan Jackson didn’t hit the stage until about two hours later. For two hours I sat drinking a dirty banana smoothie worrying more about the concert than my searing tooth pain. To my surprise, I didn’t dislike what was to come as much as I thought I would.
Alan Jackson and his 8-piece backing band, “The Strayhorns” (Would you expect them to be named something less country than that?) finally hit the stage around 8:30 P.M. I actually liked a few of Alan Jackson’s songs _thanks to my brother Morgan for being my wingman and helping me out when it came to song titles). I really enjoyed his song “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” The song, originally featuring Jimmy Buffett, was one of the crowd’s favorite that night and proved to be a fun tune. I also enjoyed “Little Bitty”, an up-tempo song about the beauty in the small things in life. Another song I enjoyed was “Chattahoochee” which was another up-tempo song with a nice melody. My brother seemed to really enjoy Jackson’s song “Remember When”, a love song about looking back on life and growing with his wife. I think I’m now convinced that all country songs involve love, drinking, God, or all three. Alan Jackson had a screen behind him which played videos for his tunes which showed just how much Jackson has changed in his 25 year career. One of the videos also featured old NASCAR stars and I’m pretty sure each music video had a truck in it. I also liked that Alan Jackson was a human t-shirt cannon because throughout the whole concert he kept throwing t-shirts out to the crowd. Jackson also seemed to play all the hits everyone wanted to hear from his long career that’s landed him in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
What didn’t I like? Well, even though Alan Jackson played all his hits, it seemed like a really short concert (around an hour & 15 minutes, if I’m being generous) and Jackson seemed to rush from one song to the next with little between. Jackson also only played one short encore song. Alan Jackson isn’t a big entertainer in the sense that he doesn’t have a big stage show and doesn’t talk with the audience much at all. The audience was large, but for the most part lacked energy, and I wonder if this somehow played a part in Alan Jackson just not having much energy to feed off of. If you see Alan Jackson in concert just know you’re seeing a man, his guitar (which he really doesn’t play all that much these days, he seems to just strum), and his band do their hits with no frills. As far as the songs are concerned, two miscues stick out to me for two different reasons. The first was the song “As She’s Walking Away” which is a duet with Zac Brown. The song itself isn’t bad, but Jackson had one of his band members foolishly put on a beanie to “look like” Zac Brown. He sounded bad and it would have been better to just have Brown appear via the video screen. I also wasn’t a fan of Alan Jackson performing the song “Where You Were When The World Stopped Turning”, his 9/11 tribute. Now I won’t get into the fact that I think most tribute songs of that magnitude walk a thin line between touching and hokey, but I personally just don’t want to hear a song like that unless it’s on the anniversary of 9/11 or something. But I was clearly in the minority as the crowd seemed glad to hear it and the man in front of me yelled “Merica!” when it ended…‘Merica, indeed.
So what was the end result of my first country music concert? Am I a big Alan Jackson fan now? No, still not a huge fan, but I could find myself listening to a few of the songs I liked again, I also respect the man’s career and at his age (55 years old) he still has a huge following as the concert looked to be close to a sell-out. Am I a bigger country music fan now? I don’t know about that. If I am, only slightly. I am, however, willing to give live and recorded country music more of a chance in hopes of finding more in the genre that I do like. Turns out that a root canal is worse than a country show, something I wouldn’t have honestly agreed with beforehand.