Alan Jackson sticks to country roots before full house at The Wharf
Published: Saturday, October 30, 2010, 10:37 PM By Lawrence F Specker, Press-Register
ORANGE BEACH, Alabama — This year’s series of “Concerts for the Coast” came to a mellow end here Saturday evening, as country superstar Alan Jackson drew a full house to the Amphitheater at The Wharf.
The shows began in July, with a beach concert in Gulf Shores starring Gulf Coast native son Jimmy Buffett. Hank Williams Jr. played a show at The Wharf in September, and Bon Jovi and Brad Paisley gave separate performances on the Gulf Shores Beach in mid-October.
All were paid for with funds given to the state by BP PLC to promote tourism in the wake of BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. They were presented by the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism agency, working in conjunction with local governments and other agencies.
For most of the shows, the majority of the tickets were used as rental incentives, given out to property management companies for use as bonuses to entice oil-wary visitors to book rooms. Saturday’s show was different, however: All the tickets were given away at a single Baldwin County outlet, with the idea that they would go to locals.
When Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism announced the arrangement, the convention and visitors bureau’s president, Herb Malone, described it as “a thank-you to the community.”
The community seemed to appreciate it, as all the tickets were snapped up in a few hours.
Where the beach shows brought a festival atmosphere to the coast, with each one drawing more than 30,000 people to a site set up specially for the occasion, Saturday’s gathering at The Wharf’s 10,000-seat outdoor concert venue had the air of business as usual.
Tailgating was virtually nonexistent, a stark contrast to occasions when jam band Widespread Panic has played the venue. Williams’ appearances at the venue also have inspired plenty of pre-show partying. But on Saturday, the vast majority of ticketholders parked their cars and headed straight for the entrances.
Those at the front of the line, who’d waited 45 minutes or more for the gates to open at 6:30 p.m., were more inclined to gripe about the wait for a restroom break than to share thoughts on Jackson, BP or the spill.
The show began with Chris Young, a former “Nashville Star” winner who delivered a brisk, amiable set built on hits such as “Gettin’ You Home,” “The Man I Want to Be” and “Voices.”
The crowd made the grandstands rumble as Jackson came out, kicking things off with “Gone Country” and his countrified take on “Summertime Blues.” He then paused for a few words.
“They brought me down here to kind of celebrate gettin’ back to normal after all that oil mess,” he said. He’d hated to see it, he explained: He’s performed for years on the Gulf Coast, and he likes offshore fishing, too. He was glad to see the area back on its feet, he said.
“Now let’s get it going.”
With that it was back to a steady string of the hits he’s churned out over the last 20 years. Jackson is known for a straightforward, traditional approach — one of his signature songs is “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” — and he stuck to it.
The music ranged from lively, as in “Who’s Cheatin’ Who,” to the meditative Sept. 11 anthem, “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning.” The common thread was that Jackson stuck to classic country themes and a classic country sound — no token banjo or fiddle atop pop songs for this Nashville stalwart.
Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft has pressed BP to support additional events next spring, as part of the continuing effort to attract vacationers to the area. BP has not publicly announced any plans to do so.