Alan Jackson has been “keepin’ it country” for 25 years, and he kept it just as country as a cowboy hat and a steel guitar’s twang Saturday night before a packed pavilion estimated at more than 30,000 at the Mississippi Valley Fair in Davenport.
The legendary entertainer is celebrating a quarter-century in the business on his current tour, which will take him on the road into 2015 and be accompanied by an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opening Aug. 29.
You don’t last that long without three things: hits, chops and stage presence. And Jackson displayed all three for the thousands assembled on a warm Saturday night.
He got the night rolling, appropriately enough, with “Gone Country,” which flowed like a jug of watermelon wine through the crowd. The scooter skitter of “I Don’t Even Know Your Name” jiggled in next, followed by the easy livin’ steel guitar of “Livin’ On Love.”
“It’s hotter than a hoochie coochie here tonight!” Jackson drawled, introducing the boogie of “Summertime Blues,” and “Small Town Southern Man” was dedicated to the beautiful lands and tiny farm towns of the Midwest.
Jackson’s baritone honeyed up the winking “Little Bitty,” “Drive” was smooth as a new road and lighters sprouted through the crowd like dandelions in a field during the solemn “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning).”
The band jacked up the mood with the poppy “Good Time” and kept it hoppy with “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and the bouncy “Chattahoochee.”
Jackson closed out the main set with a fun version of “Where I Come From,” accompanied by video footage of various Quad-City landmarks that grabbed cheers from the crowd. The sweet encore of “Mercury Blues” brought the night to a cool close.
I’ve probably seen Jackson in concert five or six times over the years, and every time the guy and his band have sounded fantastic. Last night was no exception, as the musicianship and sound mix were terrific.
If Jackson’s energy and enthusiasm, and the echoed fervor of the crowd at Saturday night’s show, are any indication, you just might see him right back at the fairgrounds in another quarter-century, celebrating his 50th anniversary with a brand-new generation of fans, munching on fried foods on a stick, enjoying the warm summer night and kicking back with decades of down-home hits.