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Alan Jackson.

Most Likely

Alan Jackson graduated from the "Class of '89" to become one of country music's leading men

By Sarah Quelland

Alan Jackson is a family man and his concert last Sunday (Sept. 28) at Shoreline Amphitheatre was a family occasion. It being a Sunday night, the house was far from packed for this American Music Award nominee for favorite male artist in the country music category, but the good-natured Jackson kept it early, he kept it fun and he kept it real with his down-home country style and sly, friendly smile.

Dressed casually in a light Western shirt, faded jeans with snaps down the sides and his trademark white cowboy hat, Jackson kicked off the night with "Gone Country" and a sense of humor. The camera caught and broadcast closeups of his boots on the big screens that served as a backdrop to the band each time he hit the line "Look at them boots."

The cool fall breeze rustled through his long blonde curls as he encouraged the Shoreline crowd to "drink or dance or do whatever you wanna do" before he and his nine-piece band settled in for their hour and forty minutes on stage.

Jackson's 22-song set was well paced in both tempo and mood. He segued from the sweet tribute to his late father, "Drive (for Daddy Gene)" into the Louisiana-styled "That'd Be Alright" and from the rowdy "Don't Rock the Jukebox" into Merle Haggard's "Trying Not to Love You."

"Little Bitty" was a big hit with the many young children in the crowd and the camera broadcast their shy and delighted faces on the big screen. After that, Jackson switched gears. "We're gonna do a sad song," he said. "I love the sad stuff. It's a lot easier to write." He said "Gone Crazy" was written during a dark period in his life before starting the song.

Jackson's live catalog includes earnest and personal songs about love ("Livin' on Love," "When Somebody Loves You" and "I'll Go On Loving You") and fun-in-the-sun blue collar songs ("It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," "Summertime Blues" and "Chattahoochee"). In keeping with that theme, footage of stock car racing and roiling beer graced the big screens when playing his covers of "Who's Cheatin' Who" and "Pop a Top," respectively.

The Georgia native personalized "Where I Come From" for the Bay Area, capturing its essence by showing freshly-filmed footage of our own sports teams, tourist attractions, businesses and freeway signs. People cheered the loudest at the Saddle Rack, the Harley Davidson store, Pac Bell Park and Shoreline itself with Jackson's name on the marquee. A "Support Our Troops" billboard and the Mountain View Fire Department also got a huge response from the crowd.

Of all the songs written about Sept. 11, Jackson's may be the most universally healing. When he sang "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" people stood up out of respect as if he were singing the national anthem and cheered patriotically when he sang "Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue and the heroes who died just doin' what they do?"

With almost 15 years worth of material, Jackson was forced to make some tough choices and he left out a number of his best songs, including "Right on the Money," "Here in the Real World," "Wanted," "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow," "Dallas," "Little Man," "She's Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)" and "Work in Progress." He could surely have switched out "www.memory" for any one of the previously mentioned songs.

"I Don't Even Know Your Name," "Tall, Tall Trees," and "The Blues Man" completed the set and Jackson ended the concert with the encore, "Mercury Blues," and signed ticket stubs and T-shirts at the front of the stage before calling it a night.

Joe Nichols made a strong impression as opener, easily interacting with the crowd and leading the audience in singalongs. He played at least as many covers as he did originals, including Merle Haggard's "Big City" and "My Favorite Memory," the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman," Hank Williams Jr.'s "Family Tradition" and David Allen Coe's "You Never Even Call Me By My Name."

Known for his own singles, "The Impossible," "Brokenheartsville," "She Only Smokes When She Drinks" and "Cool to Be a Fool"--all off his Universal South debut Man With a Memory--Nichols has a deep honky-tonk country voice comparable to Randy Travis that makes him sound much older than his 26 years. For now, Nichols' talent is greater than the songs he records. Give him time.


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Web extra to the October 2-8, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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