Review: Alan Jackson Drives Honky-Tonk Highway Tour to Nashville
Alan Jackson rode his Honky-Tonk Highway Tour into Nashville on Friday night (May 19) for an unforgettable show. While performing at Ascend Amphitheater, Jackson proved that it doesn't take an elaborate stage design or added production to keep a crowd -- even one in Music City -- mesmerized.
By the time Jackson himself emerged onstage, following opening sets from singer-songwriter Adam Wright (who happens to be Jackson's nephew) and a resilient Lee Ann Womack (a headliner in her own right who was sporting a bandage on one hand due to a surgical procedure earlier that day), the audience was eager to continue their night of traditional country sounds. The soon-to-be Country Music Hall of Fame inductee didn't disappoint: Jackson kicked off his set with "Gone Country" and "I Don't Even Know Your Name."
"It's always great to play right here in Nashville, Tenn., home of country music, and where my babies were born," Jackson told his Music City crowd. "I'm out here by the river, and this is where I belong ... We're gonna play you all some songs about cryin' and dyin' and drinkin' and havin' a good time, and all the things that make country music so special."
Jackson kept his word, too: He sang several of his most memorable songs, including "Livin' on Love," "Good Time" and "Tall, Tall Trees." The country icon also performed a haunting cover of the Hank Williams Jr. hit "Blues Man."
Jackson invited both Wright and Womack to join him onstage throughout the night as well. Wright, whom Jackson revealed served as the ring bearer in Jackson and wife Denise's wedding in 1979, sang "So You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore," which he wrote. Womack, meanwhile, returned to the stage a bit later to sing "Till the End," a duet that she and Jackson recorded for Jackson's 2010 album Freight Train. The two also tried to reprise Jackson's 2000 single "Murder on Music Row," originally recorded with George Strait; they stumbled a bit -- it was their first time singing it together -- but their vocals easily made up for any mixed-up lyrics.
Jackson's set also included partial versions of some of his earliest hits: "Here in the Real World," "Wanted," "I'd Love You All Over Again" and "Chasin' that Neon Rainbow." The four Top 5 hits followed a rocky start on the charts for Jackson, he recalled during his set.
"I had worked hard for years, five years, [and] finally got a record deal. I recorded an album, put the first song out ["Blue Blooded Woman"], and it didn't do good at all. It died a miserable death on the charts, and I was bummed out, of course," Jackson explained onstage. "[I] came home, and Denise found out she was pregnant. Neither of us were quite ready for that at that time; it kind of sneaked up on us. I thought, 'I'm going to have to go back to work now, I guess.' Then Arista put out ["Here in the Real World"], and I haven't worked since."
Jackson capped off his night at Ascend with "Little Bitty," "Country Boy," "Drive (for Daddy Gene)," "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" and "Don't Rock the Jukebox." With the crowd still screaming for more, the 58-year-old artist returned to sing "Seven Bridges Road" and "Dixie Highway," donning a Nashville Predators jersey in honor of the NHL team's playoff run.
Jackson filled Friday night with conversations and anecdotes, but he still kept his focus on the music that has made him one of the most legendary artists in the country genre. While Ascend Amphitheater will undoubtedly host several country concerts featuring pulsating rhythms and pyrotechnics this summer, Jackson's set showed that, sometimes, it's nice to sit back and enjoy a melodic summer night led by one of country music's greatest stars.
A list of all of Jackson's upcoming shows is available on his website.
(Correction: Adam Wright opened for Alan Jackson, not Adam Craig, as originally reported.)
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