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Alan Jackson remains steadfast force

Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, N.H., May 16, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
In this day and age where country purists barely recognize their beloved style of music if they bothered turning on their local country radio station, Alan Jackson is a throwback. Schooled in folks like George Jones, Jackson is a country traditionalist.

Pedal steel, fiddle and steely guitar are part of the misc - regularly.

Jackson has changed very little over the course of his career because from his start 20 years ago, he continues doing country music his way without giving into the vagaries of what happens to be popular today.

That has served Jackson well, of course, as he showed in concert, a hits laden show.

Jackson sure does have a lot of them starting with a chunk of Gone Country, which continues taking aim at country poseurs looking to grab onto the genre. It's as if Jackson quietly, but sharply makes his point exceedingly clear.

The handsome, long Georgian, with his usual ripped jeans and white cowboy hat, was of fine voice throughout his 110-minute set. His voice is filled with expression and timbre. He doesn't rush the songs or oversing. The highlight of the entire evening may have been the pretty sounding Remember When, which also drew a big hand from the crowd.

The hits kept coming and coming and coming with songs like Small Town Southern Man, Drive (for Daddy Gene), Where I Come From, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere and Living on Love.

The problem, however, was that Jackson pretty much ignored his excellent new disc, "Freight Train." He only played the first single That Way and the current single, Hard Hat and a Hammer. That was really too bad because the disc is filled with a bunch of strong, meaty traditional country songs. For someone who hews to his roots, one wished for far more of his new material.

And playing the hits sometimes proved unsatisfying as well. Jackson sat on a stool at the front with his band next to him, playing snippet after snippet of songs. Jackson smartly gave some background to the songs, which was good, but to hear 30 seconds of a hit wasn't particularly fulfilling.

Neither was seeing some of the same recycled videos for at least the third tour. It was not as bad as last time around, but Jackson ought to either come up with new backing material or else scrap it altogether and concentrate on the songs, which were good enough.

While playing for almost two hours is a good amount, if Jackson really wants to play his hits, he should consider a longer concert.

Still, Jackson remains a steadfast force to what great country music sounds like, especially in 2010.

Another traditionalist, Josh Turner, preceded Jackson with a good set. Turner's voice is about the deepest out there, and he used it well, even if it does not quite have the liveliness of Jackson.

Turner also has benefitted from a slew of hits going back seven years to one of his biggest, Long Black Train. Turner seemed to be rushing through his 50 minutes on stage for awhile, trying to squeeze in his various hits while the clock ticked.

But at a certain point, he settled in with songs like Why Don't We Just Dance, Everything Is Fine and Your Man.

Like Jackson, Turner stands tall for his country roots with banjo and pedal steel ever part of the mix. It would have been better to give Turner a longer stint and have a show that builds, instead of needing to play the hits.