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Alan Jackson brings the good times

DCU Center, Worcester, Mass., October 23, 2008

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
Alan Jackson released one of his best albums ever earlier this year, "Good Time," which makes it real easy to explain how he is in concert these days. About the same as ever - that's a good thing for the most part because Jackson has oodles of great country songs that hardly ever veer towards pop or rock, while exuding country cool and singing mighty fine.

This turned into a greatest hits type show with Jackson starting with Gone Country, making it clear where he's coming from. He's traditional about his type of country music and has little affinity for poseurs. Jackson kept it going from there with the funny I Don't Even Know Your Name and Livin' On Love. This is meat and potatoes Jackson.

He didn't need to jump all over the stage or put on some fancy staging to make his music ring true. Jackson always has been a very fine singer with a good amount of twang in his voice. He delivered his songs with feeling, to wit, an excellent, thoughtful reading of Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning), his response to the events of 9/11.

Part of Jackson's appeal is that he speaks for the working class without ever sounding like he's pandering. He can sing about the folks he knows about, as in his recent hit, Small Town Southern Man, but he also makes it clear that he is not only a son of the south. "I learned a long time ago that there are small towns everywhere," Jackson said at the song's conclusion.

The things in life that are important to Jackson - love of America and family and a simple way of life, which isn't always easy - come through loud and clear.

Jackson has so many hits to his credit - the guy has sold more than 50 million albums - that he unfortunately he ended up playing snippets of a few of them. Too bad because the full versions would have been more welcome.

What was unclear was why Jackson devoted so little time to "Good Time." The disc has 17 songs, and it is so good he could have played the entire album in and of itself. He performed two songs off of it - the title track, which he reprised in shortened form at the very end of the show as he left the stage, and Good Time Southern Man. the hit single from the disc. That's it. Not even the current single Country Man was played. Interestingly enough, Adkins played as many songs from his upcoming CD as Jackson did from "Good Time."

Jackson also could use sprucing up of his staging. Some of the video clips accompanying the songs (Chattahoochee, She's Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues) and Livin' on Love) if memory serves correctly have been used in at least one tour and maybe more. Frankly, while the use of videos is understandable, Jackson's music is so powerful that there is no need to even rely on them. A good lighting system would suffice.

Jackson fell victim as well to pandering to the locals. It is the rare artist coming through Massachusetts who does not feel compelled to reference the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. Doing so is a guaranteed, oh-so-easy crowd pleaser with applause assured. And he even threw in a Yankees logo on the screen, also keenly aware what that would engender.

Yes, there were a few should have beens from Jackson. But once again, he demonstrated that he still sounds great, looks great and doesn't fall victim to sticking his finger in the air to gauge which way the wind is blowing. Jackson provided the good times plenty.

James Otto opened the evening with a short set. Otto owns a pleasing, soulful voice and sounds good. He scored earlier this year with a number one hit, Just Got Started Loving You, with which he ended, of course.

Trace Adkins zipped through his numerous hits during his hour-long, middle set. The Louisiana native has a baritone that has a lot of power. So does his music, meaning that he rocked pretty hard by starting with Game On and Swing. It's interesting that Adkins scored with the hit single Songs About Me in which he is asked why he sings country because he tends to rock more.

Adkins quickly changed the pace with his controversial song Arlington, sung from the perspective of a dead soldier who is glad to give his life for his country. In introducing the song, Adkins said, "I do a lot of songs that are irreverent to say the least. But you can be sure, we approach the next song with the utmost respect." He turned in a good reading with solid singing and the fiddle going.

Adkins introduced a few songs from his next album, "X," which drops in late November. He had a gospel feel on the single Muddy Water, bringing out a six-piece gospel choir to help out on backing vocals, and the humorous, albeit one-note theme wise of a song, Marry For Money. "There's an economic plan in this love song if you listen to it," Adkins joked.

The tall singer has a good sense of humor (he joked about getting married to Otto and Jackson in Massachusetts, before then dismissing gay marriage in serious terms - "Shit, that ain't right" and then saying people could do what they want) and a lot of songs that fit him well.