Wilkes Barre PA Show Review: May 16th, 2010
Where to Begin? We haven't been to an Alan Jackson concert in about a year. In the past we've driven hundreds of miles to see Alan all over the country. We missed out on the show on Friday in Connecticut. I've been dealing with an injury to my neck since December, and I wasn't able to drive that far away. It was really tough sitting home Friday night knowing I should've been seeing Alan. Paul had been working up there all week and gave the tickets to someone he worked with, so at least someone enjoyed the concert.
However, Sunday totally made up for it. It was our 28th wedding anniversary that day.
I think we have seen Alan a couple times before on May 16th, usually down south somewhere, either in Virginia or North Carolina. This trip/venue was in PA, only about 130 miles away so it was very close compared to those other shows.
We left with plenty of time to take a leisurely drive and try to find a nice restaurant to enjoy dinner on our special day before the show. However, Matt got sick part way to the venue, so we had to revise our plans. He had to go back home, and we ended up in Wilkes Barre about 20 minutes before show time. The nice anniversary dinner became a pizza hut individual pizza we ate in the car while waiting to get in the parking lot.
Not to worry, the concert was still ahead. Except for Matt not being there the night was perfect. We had second row seats in the left section of the arena (our left, Alan's right). THANK YOU FAN CLUB. The security was wonderful to the fans, allowing people to come up and snap a quick picture and such.
Rachel had clipped a few beautiful pink roses from our garden just before we left, and she wanted to give them to Alan. She loves to give him roses and has done so quite a few times in the past. Many, many years ago she had gotten Alan yellow roses when we went to a concert in Salisbury, MD. She was small enough then that I actually could lift her up in the air to hand Alan those roses. That night long ago she was wearing in a beautiful dress holding those yellow flowers and Alan came sauntering over during Tooth and took them from her. The expression on her face as he looked down and smiled at her that day long ago (as I held her high in the air) is still etched in my memory. Now my little bitty girl is all grown up and was able to go to the stage herself and give Alan the roses. He of course gave her a guitar pick which she added to her collection. Alan held onto her flowers through the entire song, so Rachel was simply beaming!
And since I am reminiscing here, this also brought back memories of another time at an outdoor concert in Hershey. At the To Do What I Do tour Rachel ran up to the stage and gave him flowers. The security had told her to be really quick, so she ran away before he could give her a pick. Alan that night was saying "Where'd she go? Where'd she go?" It was really funny.
Back to this performance....The show was incredible. I have been to hundreds of his concerts and I have to say this one was one of the best. Alan's voice was superb. He seems so relaxed up on the stage. He mixed up the song list a bit and let most of the band members have a little solo as an intro to some of the songs. He definitely tricked us because we are used to Danny playing before Don't Rock the Jukebox, and instead Robbie had that honor this time.
We had a clear view of Alan the entire time because the girls in the front row were standing almost at his feet. Except for the empty chairs in front of us it was like we WERE in the front row. When Little Bitty came on, Rachel stood up with her 13 year old Bitty Baby doll and waved her around in the air. Alan saw the doll and pointed at her and laughed a bit when he saw it. I think that doll has been to a couple hundred concerts too. Rachel brings her every single show because when she was two years old she thought Alan was singing Little Bitty about her Bitty Baby Doll.
Alan played a lot of his big hits and sang his new single It's Just That Way part way through the show. Paul and I stood up and slow danced in front of our seats since it was our wedding anniversary. (I hope we didn't upset anyone doing that but we figured we were pretty far over to the left and it was only one song. If we blocked anyone's view I apologize). It felt really special to us to be able to do that.
For those of you who like to know this, here is a list of some of the other songs I didn't already mention that he sang during the first part of the show:
Gone Country (opening song)
Livin' on Love
Tooth (I Don't Even Know Her Name)
A Woman's Love
Small Town Southern Man
Who's Cheatin' Who
Where Were You (after which the crowd gave him a standing ovation).
My favorite part of the show, not that it wasn't all fantastic, was when Alan and the band pulled out some stools and sat down and played some of his older songs. We have been going to see Alan since I heard Here In the Real World on the radio, so it was really nice to be able to enjoy some of the songs from the beginning of his career. I remember a show in Delaware when he pretty much sang most of the songs on his first album because he was so new to the industry.
During this section he sang parts of Here in the Real World, Wanted, She's Got the Rhythm, Blues Man, and my family's all time favorite, Chasin' That Neon Rainbow. He talked before each song, explaining how they came to be and what they meant to him. He mentioned the song he had written for Denise, didn't play it this time. He did instead talk about Sissy's song and how that song came to be written and played a part of that as well.
What was really cool was that they ended the set with Mercury Blues. They played the whole song, uninterrupted. It was really nice to be able to watch him play and see the members of the Strayhorns play their solos. As most of you know, he usually uses Mercury Blues as an encore song so most of us are so busy crowding the stage that you don't really get to see them playing. Paul and I were remembering a show down in North Carolina (also on our anniversary) where Alan mixed up his beginning set and sang Mercury Blues in the very beginning of the show. It really got the crowd pumped up that time, but it seemed to me that night that Alan almost looked a little lost not having to lean over and sign autographs during that song.
For fans of his since the start, hearing these songs from the beginning of his career was just incredible. I hope Alan makes this part of the performance a regular occurrence because it truly was one of the highlights of my night.
The crowd had been asking for Good Time and after he sang Remember When, Alan delivered their request. I think some fans to our right had made up the letters GOOD TIME, but for some reason they didn't have them synched up with Alan singing. A couple times he was pointing at them to hold up the letters and at the end I think they all got it together and you could see "G O O D T I M E" up on the big screen behind him. After that he sang Country Boy and It's Five O'clock Somewhere which really kept everyone on their feet.
When Chattahoochee came on we went up to the stage. Rachel had her Bitty Baby doll, and I had a Philadelphia Flyer's Jersey (we are so proud of our Flyers for coming back from being down in the playoffs 3-0 to winning 4 straight in a row). I figured I'd hold it up during Where I Come From and hopefully get it signed too.
Alan came back out and did sing Where I Come From. This is one of Rachel's favorite songs. She picked it to be a number one hit before it was ever released. We always listen to every new album and each of us selects the song we think is most likely to be a number one song. Years ago, after winning front row seats at his fan club party in Nashville (for singing karaoke), we used those front row seats in Atlantic City. Instead of handing Alan flowers like everyone else, I gave him a note asking him to please sing Where I Come From in Hershey the following night for Rachel. I don't think very many people except us Rothrocks knew the song at that time (go figure it's now a super mega hit), but we stood up and sang the chorus back to him every time he sang it. This is just another one of many wonderful family memories we share because of Alan Jackson and his band.
After that he then started singing Great Balls of Fire. WOW, what a great rendition. He signed autographs during this song. He came right over to where Rachel and I were standing first. He signed my Flyers' Jersey, writing Alan right in the center of the logo (perfect spot, great choice Alan). Then he leaned over and took Rachel's Bitty Baby doll from her and held it up to show the crowd. This doll has been signed many times before, usually on her clothes. Once before though, Alan had signed his name across one side of her forehead in bright blue marker. Well this time he signed the other side of her face. Now she has two "Alan tattoo signatures" on her face. He must think we are crazy!!! Alan signed for a long time before finally finishing the song, putting an end to an extraordinary night.
After the show, we saw Monty on stage. He gave us a song list to go with the picks and signed items as a memento of our special night. We know Mark was not feeling well. We want to say "Mark, you did an incredible job as usual. We hope you are feeling better real soon!!"
Thanks again to Alan Jackson, the Strayhorns, Alan's family for sharing him with us, and everyone in the organization that makes it possible for the fans to enjoy such wonderful music.
Hope to see you all at Penn State on Friday.