Rogers, Arkansas – “It’s an American dream I’ve lived,” Alan Jackson said Thursday night. He wasn’t the only one living a dream that night, as so many fans finally got to see him after his scheduled NWA performance last year unfortunately got canceled. To no one’s surprise, Alan Jackson sold out the AMP. If there was a Mount Rushmore for neotraditionalist country, Jackson’s mustachioed visage would be carved upon it, and legions of Arkansas’s many country music fans turned out to see one of the biggest names in country play the AMP stage.
What was maybe a bit more surprising was the dedication and endurance of the capacity crowd. “Is it still rainin’ out yonder?” Jackson asked at one point. It was raining cats and dogs for virtually all the hit-filled set, and the audience, even those getting soaked on the lawn, held strong until the very end. According to Jackson, “they’re a party bunch out there.” I guess we found out “how much that muddy water meant to (them).” More on that in a minute.
Alan Jackson, like many other country music superstars, owns a bar in Nashville, and the bar’s house band opened the show. Unlike many of those stars, AJ’s Good Time Bar isn’t just another branding opportunity. As singer James Carothers enlightened us on stage when he threw shade at Luke Bryan and some of those other eponymous bar owners, Jackson is a hands-on owner, which explains why he took his house band on the road with him. Their set was naturally short, but it was packed with some of the most recognizable classic country covers played to perfection.
William Michael Morgan made sure the current generation of country musicians was also well-represented, though he too through in a few covers for good measure, namely a spot-on rendition of Toby Keith’s ‘90s mega hit “Should’ve Been A Cowboy”. The young up and coming star repeatedly expressed gratitude to Jackson for taking him out on tour, and to “country radio” for supporting his songs. Morgan’s set was a nice primer for the evening’s headliner. Alan Jackson’s stage banter is absolute gold. It’s everything you’d expect from the earnest, no-frills Small Town Southern Man. Jackson riffed about the power and honesty of country music, the simple life of your average American, and pretty much everything you’d expect to talk about if you had a one-on-one conversation with Alan Jackson. It was just as great and entertaining as the songs.
Jackson had a guitar strapped around his shoulders all night, but he only strummed it sparingly. That was okay though because the four other guitar players in his band, the Strayhorns, were stone cold killers. Also, when you think of Alan Jackson’s music, the bass guitar probably doesn’t immediately spring to mind, but his bassist, Roger Bob Wills, is an absolute beast. In keeping with the traditionalist vibe, Jackson of course introduced his band members by name and stated their hometowns. As luck would have it, guitarist Scott Coney is from Hot Springs. The mention of this naturally prompted the crowd to call the Hogs as Coney waved a Razorbacks banner. You have to love Arkansas fans!
Jackson also took the opportunity to fill the Rogers crowd in on a little Alan Jackson Arkansas trivia. Apparently one of his earliest and most recognizable hits, “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” was written in a motel room in Pine Bluff during his formative years in the bars. This prompted Jackson to play a snippet of the song, basically a verse and the chorus. This tactic was employed
a few times throughout the set. When you have so many in demand hits, sometimes you have to just get to the point and cut’em short. We got almost every song you’d expect to hear at an Alan Jackson show, though “Midnight in Montgomery”, a favorite of the Shindigmusic staff, wasn’t played. Maybe next time.
As the night wound down and the rain conveniently stopped for the drive home, Jackson and the Strayhorns tore through “Where I Come From” complete with a video backdrop of numerous Northwest Arkansas landmarks. It was a nice touch, and the crowd loved it. Alan Jackson has a remarkable ability to remain on brand, and as such, the night was best described as simply being a Good Time.
Cover Photo Courtesy of the Arkansas Music Pavilion.