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AJ lives up to billing of tour name

Honda Center, Anaheim, Cal., April 16, 2016

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Alan Jackson calls his current tour Keepin' It Country, as if he even needs to say so. Jackson's been 'keepin' it country' since he started making records in the late '80s, and show no signs of changing that approach this late in the game.

When Jackson sang "Remember When," his ode to reminiscing about the milestones in a long-term relationship, a young man in the fourth row got down on one knee and proposed to his girl. It wasn't caught on the kiss cam. Nor did Jackson likely witness it. But those seated around the couple were all smiles and congratulations. This will be a 'remember when' they'll never forget.

Jackson's wife and daughter (who lives in California) were in the audience this night, which led the singer/songwriter to cover Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road" for the daughter. This is a song that was popularized by the Eagles. It's rare for Jackson to make changes in his set list, so this was a bit of a special addition for diehard Jackson fans. Jackson also name-dropped the recently deceased Merle Haggard, along with shouting out to George Jones during "Don't Rock the Jukebox."

But it's sometimes the little things that make all the difference, such as when Jackson's guitarist put on a Zac Brown-like beanie to help sing "As She's Walking Away." This song, as well as many others over the hour-and-a-half set, serve to highlight Jackson's polished band, The Strayhorns. Jackson often lets his individual band members take solos - as he did during show-closing "Where I Come from" - so he can toss out t-shirts, sign fan hats, boots and even autograph a fan-drawn sketch of the younger Jackson with long hair. He gets to meet his people, while his musicians are able to show off their skills.

With this tour, Jackson has minimized the pre-performance video clip barrage that used to overhype the humble Georgia-born performer. He kicked off the show with "Gone Country" and kept it country from beginning to end.

Jackson was preceded by another Georgia native, American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina. The most memorable moment in Alaina's set came when an overalls-wearing fan came up to mug and dance along with "Next Boyfriend." Although Alaina didn't keep it nearly as country as Jackson did, she carried herself with poise and charm, winning over an arena mostly packed with Jackson fans.

At the end of the day, it was simply heartening to see a hockey arena filled with fans of Jackson's traditional country sounds. Much like George Strait, Jackson continues to remain popular on country radio because he writes great songs - which just happen to be straight forwardly country.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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