Monday, Oct 22, 2018
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Music-Theater-Dance

Timeless Jackson thrills Huntington crowd

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    Alan Jackson performs at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Friday.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
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  • FEA-AlanJackson-41

    Alan Jackson performs at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Friday.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
    Buy This Image

  • FEA-AlanJackson-39

    Alan Jackson performs at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Friday.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
    Buy This Image

  • FEA-AlanJackson-40

    Alan Jackson performs at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Friday.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
    Buy This Image

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Alan Jackson is an outlier in today’s country music.

He just isn’t that interested in causing a big scene.

There have been flashy, loud, and visually stimulating country concerts in the Huntington Center’s history. But there has perhaps not been one as country as the one put on by Alan Jackson Friday night.

WATCH: Country stars Alan Jackson and Randy Houser perform in Toledo

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Alan Jackson performs at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Friday.

The Blade/Kurt Steiss
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Past Toledo shows by Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, and Keith Urban embraced the big productions that are in vogue in the country music industry. Jackson is not about to travel down that road. Friday night, a short clip played of his career accomplishments, then Jackson simply walked on stage, introduced himself, and kicked off his show with “Gone Country.”

Jackson, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and a soon-to-be member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, gave the sellout crowd in downtown Toledo a tour of his hit-laden catalog in a 21-song, 90-minute performance that was interrupted several times by extended ovations.

Before singing “Livin’ on Love,” Jackson acknowledged the crowd.

“We’ve got a good-looking bunch of people in here,” he said. “It’s good to be back in Toledo. I was flying in here today, and I forgot how pretty it is. You’ve got a lot of farmland and pretty lakes too.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Alan Jackson and Randy Houser perform at Huntington Center

Jackson is no longer a young man. He will turn 60 in October and at times it was painful to watch him hobble around the stage. But he kept the crowd engaged by throwing them t-shirts and by telling stories of his life and career, including of his start back in 1989.

“We were pretty excited to release our first single [”Blue Blooded Woman”], but it didn’t do so good,” Jackson said. “I went home to my wife for support, and she told me she was pregnant. I said, ‘well, I guess I gotta go back to work.’ Luckily the label decided to release this next song, and I haven’t had to work since.”

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Alan Jackson performs at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Friday.

The Blade/Kurt Steiss
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Then, Jackson started his hit parade by playing “Here in the Real World,” the song that started the Georgia native down his path to superstardom.

Jackson has charted more than 25 No. 1 hits in his career, so he wasn’t able to get to all of them. But he did include “I Don’t Even Know Your Name,” “Good Time,” “Little Bitty,” “Country Boy,” “Drive (For Daddy Gene),” “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” and “Chattahoochee.” Interestingly, the most touching moment of the night (other than “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning”) was a new song, “The Older I Get.” The lyrics tell of a person looking back on the good things in his life.

“I have had a lot of hit songs. I can’t do them all, so I’m sorry if I can’t get to one you wanted to hear. I’d like to play a song I recorded recently. Everyone is trying to get me to finish my next album, but I haven’t done it. I didn’t write this song, but I can really relate to the lyrics,” he said in introducing “The Older I Get.”

Randy Houser, who returned to the States this week after an extended tour of Australia, got the party started at the Hungington Center with a 10-song, 45-minute set that included No.1 hits “We Went,” “How Country Feels,” and “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight.”

At one point, Houser apologized for being jet-lagged, but there was no telling it in his performance. He is a powerful, soulful singer and underrated as a guitar player. His bluesy, new song “High Time” was a highlight as was another new song, “What Your Mama Don’t Know,” in which Houser did some serious shredding on his electric guitar.

But Houser was it as far as opening acts, again something that strayed from the modern formula of throwing three artists on an arena show.

FEA-AlanJackson-40

Alan Jackson performs at the Huntington Center in Toledo on Friday.

The Blade/Kurt Steiss
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Not surprisingly, the crowd trended older than most country music crowds at the Huntington, a point hammered home when a man dressed as Abraham Lincoln wandered onto the arena floor shortly before the concert began. Jackson’s career is closing in on 30 years, and he often belted out a hit with the big screen showing a young Jackson playing on a music video for the same song more than 20 years earlier.

Radio play has probably passed Jackson by, as it has other country greats like Vince Gill and Travis Tritt. “Good Time” and “Country Boy” were hits 10 years ago. Many of his major hits stretch back 20 years. But that’s the beauty of Jackson. His catalog of hits is timeless. Most of those in the crowd stood throughout the show, many danced, some cried during “Remember When.” Old women and young girls wore his shirts and clapped to his music.   

Jackson bills himself as one of the last true traditional country artists. Ironically, he is anything but traditional in today’s country. He is unique and, as one young woman in the crowd said, “he’s a legend.” His formula has worked for three decades. There is no reason for him to change now.  

Contact Brian Dugger at bdugger@theblade.com or on Twitter @DuggerBlade.

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