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From the Country Standard Time Archives

The Possum fights technical difficulties

Austin-Travis County Livestock Show and Rodeo, March 17

By Chuck Hamilton

AUSTIN - Over the years, George Jones has overcome broken marriages, alcohol problems, and a habit of missing his concert dates.

He only had to overcome a faulty sound system at a show Sunday. Jones was one of a long list of performers, including Diamond Rio, Mark Chesnutt, and Collin Raye, playing the Austin-Travis County Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The logistics of hauling out a stage between (or after) rodeo events makes this a less than ideal live music venue. Several years ago, when Loretta Lynn performed at the San Antonio rodeo, the sound system completely crashed, forcing Lynn to sing a capella.

In Austin, however, the problem appeared twofold: the vocals sounded too low, plus Jones seemed to have difficulty hearing his band. Jones persevered, however, and ended up doing a longer set - 45 minutes - than you might expect from a guy with a lot of hard miles on his odometer. The show opened with the Possum's back up band, the Jones Boys, a group that does well in its own right. They're also pretty oblivious to trendlines, since none of them wore hats. After covering Alan Jackson's "Don't Rock the Jukebox" (with its line "I want to hear some Jones"), George himself, in black Wranglers, a crisp white shirt, and dark tinted glasses, took the stage and led off with "High Tech Redneck."

From the beginning it was obvious that glitches in the sound system were making life difficult onstage. Because of the sound problems, a few numbers sounded a bit out of sync. At one point between songs, Jones asked the audience if they could hear him. Later he remarked, "The only part of this show I'm not enjoying is when I can't hear anything."

Still, he plowed ahead, although tentatively in the early going. Jones finally hit full stride with "He Stopped Loving Her Today," earning a standing ovation. From then on, he let loose demonstrating once again why his voice is one of the best in country music.

To catch his breath, Jones sat out a few numbers. But before he left the stage, he'd given a generous sampling of 30-plus years of hits. Technical difficulties and Jones's occasionally running out of breath before the end of a verse made this a less than perfect set. But then, less than perfect from George Jones still ain't bad.