George Jones: is age catching up with his voice?
Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Cerritos, Cal., Feb. 21, 2000
CERRITOS, CA - - Although George Jones has had a hard life, his hard living - up until now anyhow - hasn't seemed to adversely affect his singing voice. In fact, the misery caused by his marital and chemical-related troubles seemed only to bring out extra expressiveness from his already expressive voice.
But the cold hard truth is that Jones' demons appear to have finally caught up with him. Listening to Jones sing live is no longer the equivalent of being in the presence of one of the world's great vocal wonders. What had once sounded effortless, now sounds strained. Where he used to show off his otherworldly range to finish songs, he now merely lets his performances peter out.
This loss in vocal prowess is especially obvious whenever Jones reaches for the higher register in his voice. It's like an aging pitcher who reaches for his fastball, only to find it missing.
With upbeat numbers like "The Race is On," Jones' handicaps were hidden within the mix of his bands loud playing. But when he got to the classic ballad "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which was once the centerpiece of his live set, it was simply pitiful to hear Jones trying - and failing - to compete with his former self.
When I last saw Jones in concert - back in the '80's - he kidded at the beginning of his show that he might just play until three or four in the morning.
He's still using that tired old line, and still playing for exactly one hour, just like clockwork, every night. After his backing band, The Jones Boys, played three songs, Jones took the stage right at nine. But at the very stroke of 10, Jones was finished with his lone encore and waving goodbye to the crowd.
Fortunately for Jones fans, he has usually chosen above par material, and even though his singing was usually less than spectacular, hearing songs like the new "Choices," and the older "Bartender's Blues," is still worth the trip.
At one point, Jones mentioned that the doctors still have him on heavy medication. One hopes that this medical treatment is the real cause for the man's obvious vocal deficiencies. Otherwise, the best days of this true American treasure appear to be behind him.
The show was opened by the annoying Cledus T. Judd, who has apparently convinced himself and others that he is the country version of Weird Al. But except for being untalented, unfunny and crude, he earns that dubious title.