Review: Jackson rocks the Blaisdell
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
Brock Lathrop was hoping to hear “Where I Come From” and “Chattahoochee.” Kimberly Timmerman and Esther Rose wanted “Remember When.”
Country music superstar Alan Jackson fulfilled their wishes last night — and those of several thousand other country music fans — with his first-ever concert in the Blaisdell Arena.
“Gone Country,” one of more than two-dozen Billboard Country Singles Chart-topping hits he’s had to date, set the mood for more than 90 minutes of superb contemporary country music. The set list included many of Jackson’s classic country hits, a few lesser-known songs, and all of the biggest “must do” numbers — “Chattahoochie,” “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” among them.
The crowd gave Jackson a standing ovation when he came out to start the show and he repaid them for their courtesy in full and then some as he rocked the arena — country-style, of course.
Jackson thanked everyone for being there and mentioned it was his second time playing here (he played a show at Marine Corps Base Hawaii several years ago). The crowd roared its approval when Jackson changed the final line of “Small Town Southern Man” to “Small town Hawaiian man” and added that “small towns are all over this country.”
“Don’t Rock The Jukebox,” “Little Bitty” and “Remember When” were greeted with cheers. “Summertime Blues,” “Chattahoochee” and “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere” became spontaneous sing-alongs.
Jackson also scored with a couple of his recent releases. He introduced “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore” with the observation that sad songs are easier to do because “it’s harder to make happy songs sound real.” Next came “As She’s Walking Away,” his #1 country chart hit as a guest of the Zac Brown Band (one of his musicians sang Brown’s part).
Veteran entertainer that he is, Jackson introduced several songs with short stories that put them in context. For instance, he explained that “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” was written in response to the death of his father, and told the crowd that after his first single release had “died a miserable death” the second one, “Here in the Real World,” was a hit “and I never worked again.”
On the other hand, where some artists might have seized the opportunity to wax patriotic, Jackson went from “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” to “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” his response to the 9/11 attacks, without a word spoken. No introduction or patriotic platitudes were necessary. The lyrics said everything that needed to be said.
Three other songs — “Where I Come From,” Small Town Country Man” and “Country Boy” — shared Jackson’s empowering message about taking pride in your heritage and who you are. Jackson recorded “Where I Come From” as a catchy traditionalist country song with strong fiddle and guitar work; he played it in concert last night with a heavy bass line arrangement that gave it much more impact.
Jackson gave Honolulu an excellent show — he did most of the songs that most of the fans wanted to hear, added just enough story-telling, and stepped back to give several members of the band well-deserved spotlight moments. But beyond all the all-important musical aspects of the performance Jackson connected with the audience on a personal level to an extent few artists of any genre do at Blaisdell Arena.
Jackson tossed so many of his Alan Jackson Yee Haw guitar picks out to the audience throughout the show that a member of the stage crew made frequent trips out to replenish the supply on his mike stand. Jackson went through several Sharpies as well; while the band played extended instrumental sections he worked the edge of the stage signing cowboy hats and baseball caps and photographs and concert tickets and CDs and purses and the backs of cell phones and the cowboy boots that fans were waving at him.
Jackson spent as much time as he could accommodating autograph-seekers without stopping the show entirely. The musician vamped on several numbers to give him the time he needed to get back to the microphone.
Brock Lathrop got his cap signed. Kimberly Timmerman got autographs on both of her boots. Esther Rose got Jackson’s signature on a strip of arcade photo booth photos. A kid who obviously has yet to born when Jackson scored his first No. 1 country hits in 1991 looked ecstatic when Jackson signed his cowboy hat.
When Jackson and the band returned to the stage for an encore performance of “Mercury Blues” he spent more than four minutes just signing things for as many fans as possible before time ran out.
The only thing Jackson didn’t sign was a bra that someone threw at him. He ignored the provocative object and continued signing things that members of the crowd were waving his way. Someone eventually pulled it off stage.
Take note Hawaii: When Alan Jackson returns — and don’t we all hope it will be soon! — keep in mind that he is a gentleman, not a hoochie hunter, and don’t be throwing underwear at him.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at email@example.com.