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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Alan Jackson, Martina McBride: don't switch the dial

The Arrowhead Pond, Anaheim, Cal., Aug. 11, 2004

By Dan MacIntosh

ANAHEIM, CA - This stop on Alan Jackson's annual summer tour took place inside an arena, rather than the out-in-the-open of an outdoor theatre, as he'd done in the past. He may not have benefited from the natural light of the night sky stars this time through town, but since he's amassed so many stellar songs over the years, such an environmental change didn't really matter. You might say he arrived with his star power already self-contained.

Although Jackson has never been daring enough to base whole tour sets solely around his most recent album, this doesn't mean he's somehow afraid to work new songs into his act.

So tonight, he treated the crowd to his latest single, "Too Much of a Good Thing," as well as the newly gussied-up "Hey Good Lookin'," which benefited from the same updated arrangement as is found on its current all-star single version.

Backed by his always-steady Stray Horns band, Jackson stuck primarily to the hits, such as "Drive," "Pop a Top" and "Don't Rock the Jukebox." Many of his songs were also visually assisted by accompanying videos, including a montage of his parents during "Livin' on Love,' and the silly Jeff Foxworthy for the comedic "I Don't Even Know Your Name." And instead of being flanked by video screens on each side of the stage, this super-sized show sported five giant screens behind the singer!

Martina McBride opened with a well-paced string of hits. Although this Kansas native is a far cry from what you might call a traditionalist, it's still hard not to appreciate her top-drawer singing.

During her sparsely accompanied version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow," speaking of Kansas, she was simply stunning. And while her own original material can't compete with classic songs, such as those found in the soundtrack of "The Wizard of Oz," she still has a great ear for emotionally moving material.

Wearing a denim jacket with the word "love" embroidered on the back, McBride blew a little harmonica when she sang the empathetic "Love's The Only House." Her "Concrete Angel" was upstaged by its video accompaniment, however. McBride may be a pretty girl, but cute kids will always be the champion heart-stealers - hands down.

The only flat note of her otherwise seamless presentation came when McBride performed Pat Benatar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot." Nobody with the word "love" written on their back could ever do justice to one of Pat's angry-girl rockers.

About the only thing these two contemporary country giants have in common is an apparent distaste for flash. There were no costume changes, props or special effects this whole night. With so many hits and so little filler, it was a little lot like watching a live, commercial-free radio show. One where you never wanted to switch the dial.