Alan Jackson delivers night of 'real country music'

Cindy Watts , USA TODAY NETWORK | May 20, 2017

More than 25 years after Alan Jackson released his debut album, “Here in the Real World,” all he has to do to hype up fans is casually step up to the microphone.

He did that and so much more Friday night.

Jackson, whose hits range from his first album’s title track and its follow-up “Wanted” to his signature song “Chattahoochee,” his emotional and reflective “Remember When” and his answer to 9/11 “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” played those songs and an array of his other hits during his nearly two-hour show at Ascend Amphitheater. And when he walked off the stage following his final encore, Jackson still wasn’t finished. About an hour later, the beloved Country Music Hall of Fame inductee popped up at his AJ’s Good Time Bar on Broadway to play some more. In all, Jackson, 58, performed in one location or another for more than three hours.

Jackson kicked the night off at Ascend Amphitheater with hits “Gone Country” and “I Don’t Even Know Your Name” before commenting that it was “hotter than hootchie kootchie” onstage.

“It feels like August,” he told fans, then promised them “real country music.”

“I’m going to play songs about life and love, living and dying … and all the things that make country music special,” Jackson said.

Jackson had a story to go with nearly every song. When he played “Drive (for Daddy Gene),” he talked about the profound impact of losing his dad. He said he wrote “Livin’ on Love” early in his career when he and his wife, Denise, had very little money and not much more than love to pull them through. He said he wrote “Wanted” and “I’d Love You All Over Again” the same morning in the same Arkansas hotel room, the latter as a gift to his wife for their anniversary. “Chasin’ that Neon Rainbow” was inspired by real life – Jackson’s passion for country music really did develop as he was listening to a radio that his dad won at work. The radio is now in the Country Music Hall of Fame, which Jackson will join this fall.