REVIEW - Arena crowd Livin' on Love

By GREG BURLIUK/The Kingston Whig Standard   

If there were rafters to hang from at the K-Rock Centre Thursday night, country music fans would have been hanging from them to see Alan Jackson, arguably the biggest country star to play Kingston while still at the top of his game.

As it was, some 6,800 fans jammed into the place to see one of Nashville's staunchest purveyors of traditional country music

The only possible disappointment might have been that the tall Georgian wouldn't play one of their favourites, which was a distinct possibility given that he's had 34 No. 1 singles in a 20-year recording career.

But after a sizzling 90-minute set of 22 songs, it was hard to imagine anyone going home disappointed.

Jackson may be a traditionalist, but the show sure wasn't. It opened with a collage of videos from his biggest hits, and the first full song, I Don't Even Know Your Name, was played behind several screens showing the video from the song, featuring comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Each song had some kind of audiovisual accompaniment, interspersed with shots of the band. The videos were of ordinary people, because that's who Jackson sings and writes about, the small town Southern country folk from which he sprung.

Two such songs were the first big crowd-pleasers of the evening. Little Bitty had the crowd singing along, and Drive (For Papa Gene) was a song he wrote to commemorate his dad's passing 10 years ago.

Jackson did have one problem, though -- there was an unusual number of females who wanted to climb up on the stage and shake it before being escorted off, especially during the song Don't Rock The Jukebox.

Not that Jackson minded. "Y'all got some good dancers," he chuckled in his Georgian drawl. "You're jazzin' things up."

Shortly after, there was an acoustic set in which Jackson played shorter versions and talked about his earlier hits such as Here in the Real World and Wanted, and most notably Chasing That Neon Rainbow. The set ended with an acoustic version of As She's Walking Away, the recent hit Jackson had with the Zac Brown Band.

And then there was my absolute favourite Alan Jackson song, Remember When, the song that should be played at any long-time anniversary celebration. It drew a hush through the rowdy crowd.


Not that Jackson isn't averse to rowdiness. Right after, he had a trio of rabble-rousers in Good Time, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere and Chattahoochie.

Jackson cleverly played the crowd by inserting the word Ontario into several songs, but the masterstroke came when he sang Where I Come From and the video behind showed scenes of Kingston, including members of our Armed Forces. The crowd ate it up and it ended the regular portion of the show.

In the encore song, while the band jammed to Mercury Blues, Jackson autographed cowboy hats and other pieces of clothing passed to him from the audience. He had spent the whole show flipping guitar picks into the crowd.

The concert started promptly at 7:30 p.m. with a half-hour set by The Harters -- siblings Leslie, Michael and Scott from Arizona -- who didn't need more than a couple of guitars to accompany their lovely three-part close harmonies.

Their new single, the ballad If I Run, is sweet and has got hit written all over it.