Alan Jackson NRG Stadium March 8, 2015
I do not have a dog in the fight for the soul of country music. To be honest, I doubt the fight even really exists. Nashville is in the business of making money, and if they can squeeze out a few extra record sales by pitting the old guard versus the new, real country versus bro country, it's not a stretch to think that someone, somewhere is getting a little under the table to stoke the fires.
But I get it. You wait months for the Rodeo lineup to arrive only to learn that Florida Georgia Line is still a thing -- a Value Wednesday thing, but a thing all the same -- and then to make matters worse, Luke Bryan is the first Rodeo act to score a sellout. If you're a traditional country purist, it's enough to make you weep in your beer like your lady just ran off and your dog just died.
Luckily for those country-music fans who don't bump Lil' Wayne in their pickup trucks, Alan Jackson is still standing, still singing and still making trips down to Houston for rodeo season.
As you might expect, what with this being his 22nd RodeoHouston performance, Alan Jackson has some age on him. This is most obvious in his stage banter. At 56, Jackson comes off less "country music legend" and more "your grandpa who likes to talk." And that's a good thing. When he addresses the crowd, he comes off like a real human as opposed to someone putting on airs in a crowded arena.
Sure, his voice is a little thin on the quicker songs and his guitar is mostly there for looks, but if you're reviewing an Alan Jackson show on straight musical mechanics you're doing it wrong.
Jackson today is at his best when things slow down and he can let his voice work its magic. "Remember When" is timeless even if he isn't, and he can still give you all sorts of emotions when it's time to sing "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."
While the slow stuff is all well and good, Jackson knows that most folks go to a show to have some fun, and with his massive catalog of chart-toppers there are plenty of party songs for him to choose from. You can't go see Alan Jackson and not hear "Chattahoochee" or "Good Time." That would just be weird.
It's in these songs you do see the passing of time in his performance. He knows all the words and they sound fine, but they don't really have the spark they had back in the day.
Except then he busted out a new honky-tonk song, "You Never Know," and suddenly the spark was back. Jackson was feeling it and for a brief moment it was like a different performer was onstage. Maybe he hasn't slowed down that much after all; maybe he's just run through the old stuff a few too many times.
Story continues on the next page.
You can't really view the battle over country music through the performance of one man -- unless that man happens to be Tim McGraw, of course -- but here's a thought for real country music fans to consider: Alan Jackson's 22nd RodeoHouston performance had the largest rodeo crowd he's played to.
As long as Alan Jackson is still standing, singing and making trips down to Houston, there will be a at least one show for you to look forward to most years.
Personal Bias: When it comes to Alan Jackson, I miss the mullet.
The Crowd: The 14th largest in RodeoHouston history.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I'm done with the Rodeo. I'll wait 20 years and then I'll catch Luke Bryan," said someone who was less than pleased about the number of people at the show.
Random Notebook Dump: Not much to write about on the mutton-busting front, but the calves got a decisive win during the calf scramble tonight. Utter (udder?) domination on their part as the kids just got man-(cow-?)handled. This pleases me as I always root for the calves.
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