REVIEW: Alan Jackson keeps it simple

REVIEW: Alan Jackson keeps it simple
By Jeff DeDekker, The Leader-Post
January 25, 2010 10:20 AM

There's a very simple reason why country superstar Alan Jackson doesn't have a state-of-the-art stage show for his concerts: He just doesn't need all the bells and whistles.

Jackson's Good Times tour wheeled into Regina on Saturday night and the sold-out crowd at the Brandt Centre got a firsthand look at how the 51-year-old has managed to sell 50 million albums worldwide over the past 20 years.

Taking to the stage in ripped jeans, a black dress shirt and his trademark white cowboy hat, Jackson wasted little time digging into his impressive discography and playing hit after hit after hit. Although he is a man of few words, he did take a couple of opportunities to speak to the crowd and share a few of this thoughts.

After opening with "Gone Country" and "I Don't Even Know Your Name," Jackson took a brief moment to describe his plan for the evening.

"Tonight we'll have some fun songs, some love songs, some hurtin' songs," he explained. "We're going to try and have a good time. Let's warm it up here tonight."

With the exception of "The Blues Man" and "Like Red On A Rose," Jackson's set list was full of instantly recognizable songs. As he promised, Jackson covered the entire emotional gamut. "Chattahoochee," "Summer Time Blues" and "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" represented the fun songs, while "Livin' On Love," "A Woman's Love" and "Remember When" helped fill the requirement of love songs.

But Jackson, who has 25 No. 1 hits to his credit, is perhaps best known for his hurtin' songs. Jackson's grasp of the emotional complexities of life is evident in traditional tunes like "Who's Cheatin' Who" and "Don't Rock The Jukebox" as well as the unforgettable "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)." Written in response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, "Where Were You" carries as much impact today as it did when Jackson debuted the song at the 2001 Country Music Association awards show.

Jackson even revealed an interesting little tidbit when introducing "A Woman's Love." Originally recorded for his 1998 album High Mileage, the song wasn't released as a single. It was re-recorded in 2006 for Like Red On A Rose and it was finally released as a single, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard charts.

"I wrote this song a long time ago and it only recently ended up on the radio," said Jackson. "It's a subject that I'm still learning about."

While Jackson's show didn't have the bombastic special effects that have become common in the business, it wasn't totally without some modern technology. Five video screens -- three behind the main stage and one to each side -- were used heavily throughout the night. Perhaps the biggest special effect of the night came during "The Blues Man" when a soupy fog covered the floor of the main stage. But in the end the lack of pyrotechnics didn't bother the crowd because Jackson and his band, the Strayhorns, delivered a superb evening of music with 19 songs presented in a tight 78-minute set.

Jackson's distinctive voice was in fine form and the Strayhorns -- Monty Allen, Scott Coney, Robbie Flint, Danny Groah, Mark McClurg, Bruce Rutherford, Joey Schmidt and Roger Wills -- were a notch above magnificent.

The most intriguing part of the show was witnessing Jackson connect with fans of all ages.

The Brandt Centre was full of teens, young adults, baby boomers and seniors and each and every one of them appeared to share the same connection to Jackson and his music.

George Canyon, one of Canada's top country acts, got the night off to a great start with an impressive eight-song, 30-minute set. Taking to the stage in a Regina Pats jersey, the native of Pictou, N.S., grabbed the crowd's attention right away with "Drinkin' Thinkin'," "Somebody Wrote Love" and "All of Nothing."

Although he got the crowd fired up with a singalong version of the Johnny Cash hit "Ring of Fire," Canyon was at his best with the ballads "Let It Out" and "I Want You To Live."