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Alan Jackson has gone country and keeps it that way

Greek Theatre, Los Angeles, Cal., July 28, 2002

By Dan MacIntosh

LOS ANGELES, CA - First and foremost, Alan Jackson concerts are now no longer preceded by that annoying video montage of the performer's various television appearances. This tactic was an extreme example of preaching to the converted - his audience already knows exactly why they're there. Instead AJ hit the stage with "Gone Country" and kept the music nonstop straight country from beginning to end.

Maybe it has something to do with America's lingering post-9/11 sobriety, but Jackson's show now features far fewer comedic video enhancements, and many more straight performances. There's nothing wrong with that, though.

Jackson's a singer, plain and simple, and not any kind of an all-around entertainer.

On this cool summer night, Jackson found a few slots for songs from his latest album "Drive," which included places for "Work In Progress," "When Love Comes Around" as well as the album's title cut. He closed, to nobody's great surprise, with "Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)." Unfortunately, he didn't also perform "A Little Bluer Than That" from the new disc.

Since Jackson concerts always clock in at an hour and a half, he has only a small window in which to include his ever-growing body of hits. Tonight found him running through "Little Bitty" and "Who's Cheatin' Who," on the upbeat side and "When Somebody Loves You," exemplifying the softer end of his repertoire. As for the non-hits, he also performed a sincere version of "Song For The Life," written by Rodney Crowell.

Jackson didn't say much -- he rarely ever does -- and wasn't surrounded by a whole lot of glitz, but his music alone spoke volumes about just why Jackson is such a treasured modern country artist. Instead of being barraged by too many video representations of the man, this crowd was treated to a large serving of the real deal.

Asleep At The Wheel's opening set was a lesson in the art of concert pacing -- especially since this was not an audience that had paid to see a tall, lanky and aging Texan with an undying love for Bob Wills-related music.

The band started out nice 'n easy, with a little swing ("Route 66") and a touch of cowboy ("Tumblin' Tumbleweeds"). All along the way, Ray Benson gave this crowd plenty of time to gain an appreciation for what his well-versed veteran band does best, before closing out with a smoking and humorous take on "Hot Rod Lincoln," which led into the outdoor theatre audience clapping along enthusiastically with "Big Ball's In Cow Town." For already-converted AATW fans, the band is now playing Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You" (from the Van Zandt tribute album from awhile back), and fiddler Jason Roberts is increasingly taking more vocal turns (George Strait's "Amarillo By Morning" and Mo Bandy's "Bandy The Rodeo Clown").

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