It all started in 1989.
Those were the first words audience members at the Infinite Energy Center heard while patiently waiting for Alan Jackson to take the stage Saturday night. Those words kicked off a visual walk down memory lane showcasing Jackson’s career accolades. It ended with the thunderous statement: “Alan Jackson, you’re a true legend of country music.”
That 58-year-old legend then took the stage, wielding a guitar featuring an ornate gold decal, while also donning a powder-white cowboy hat.
With 20 studio albums under his belt, as well as multiple Grammy, Country Music Association (CMA) and Academy of Country Music (ACM) awards, he’s one of the few stalwarts of country music to never waver from his “true” country roots. That’s what his fans love about him.
Jackson constantly brought up that he and his band were playing real country music all night. In fact, during Jackson’s performance of “Livin’ On Love,” he signed and brought to the main stage a fan poster proudly stating “Keeping It Country” for all to see, brandishing it like a trophy.
But Jackson isn’t all talk. His performance encapsulated authentic country music, from down-to-Earth song introductions to the setlist construction and song compositions.
Throughout the night, Jackson often led into songs with a story, typically on how the song came to be. The first time he did this was as a lead-in to his first successful song, “Here in the Real World,” which charted at number three on the Hot Country Songs charts in early 1990.
“I released my first single (‘Blue Blooded Woman‘) in 1989, and it didn’t do well at all,” Jackson said. “So, I came home, and my wife said she was pregnant. We both weren’t ready for that, so I went back to work. Thankfully, the studio released this song (‘Here in the Real World’) next, and I haven’t gone back to work since.”
He had a similarly long monologue before performing “Home.” His mother, Ruth Musik Jackson, died on Jan. 7, and Jackson decided this song was a fitting tribute. He went on to say he wrote this song as a Mother’s Day gift for Ruth after he left his hometown of Newnan for Nashville in the early 1990s.
Jackson brought up his Georgia roots and heritage frequently as well. During the performance of “Where I Come From,” images of Georgia and Atlanta landmarks were showed on screen. There were deafening cheers when the Atlanta Falcons logo was shown. A similar reaction was given for the University of Georgia’s logo, but the Georgia Institute of Technology’s received boos instead — sorry, Jacket fans. On the bright side, he did say he was looking forward to eating at a place near Georgia Tech’s campus.
“The most important thing is I’m gonna have some Varsity chili dogs when I’m done here,” Jackson said.
Charisma aside, the music was also a good showcase of classic, neo-traditional country instrumentation and songwriting. There were multiple fiddle, mandolin, piano and steel guitar solos throughout the night.
Jackson also included songs from a wide variety of country genres, such as the rockabilly-influenced “You Never Know” and the bluegrass staple “Seven Bridges Road.” He also had a duet with opening act Lee Ann Womack for the ballad “Till The End.”
Womack’s set was an entertaining assortment of mostly down-paced country tunes. Her song “Trouble’s Here” and its foot-stomping groove was a definite highlight, but the arrangement for “I Hope You Dance” seemed a little underwhelming. It could’ve used a louder instrumental climax, since it never seemed to really build up the way Womack’s vocals did.
On the contrary, all of Jackson’s songs packed a solid punch. The only real complaint fans might have is that he may not of played their personal favorite hit — like “Midnight in Montgomery” for example – but with a career and discography as expansive as Jackson’s, that’s completely understandable. And if that’s biggest complaint people have, that should speak for itself.
Alan Jackson’s set list for his Saturday, Jan. 28 concert:
“Gone Country” (“Who I Am,” 1994)
“I Don’t Even Know Your Name” (“Who I Am,” 1994)
“Livin’ On Love” (“Who I Am,” 1994)
“Good Time” (“Good Time,” 2008)
“The Blues Man” (“Under The Influence,” 1999)
“Tall, Tall Trees” (“The Greatest Hits Collection,” 1995)
“So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore” (“Thirty Miles West,” 2012)
“Who’s Cheatin’ Who” (“Everything I Love,” 1996)
“Here in the Real World” (“Here in the Real World,” 1989)
“Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” (“Here in the Real World,” 1989)
“Till The End” (“Freight Train,” 2010)
“You Never Know” (“Angels and Alcohol,” 2015)
“As She’s Walking Away” (“34 Number Ones,” 2010)
“Home” (“The Greatest Hits Collection,” 1995)
“Little Bitty” (“Everything I Love,” 1996)
“Country Boy” (“Good Time,” 2008)
“Seven Bridges Road” (“Live at Texas Stadium,” 2007)
“Drive (For Daddy Gene)” (“Drive,” 2002)
“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” (“Drive,” 2002)
“Don’t Rock the Jukebox” (“Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” 1991)
“Remember When” (“Greatest Hits Volume II,” 2003)
“It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” (“Greatest Hits Volume II,” 2003)
“Chattahoochee” (“A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ’bout Love),” 1992)
“Where I Come From” (“When Somebody Loves You,” 2000)
“Mercury Blues” (“A Lot About Livin’ (And a Little ’bout Love),” 1992)
“Dixie Highway” (“Thirty Miles West,” 2012)