Alan Jackson delights with plenty of hits

A review of Alan Jackson at the Mohegan Sun Arena on May 14, 2010

, Staff Writer

Alan Jackson’s concert on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Casino fit like an old pair of broken in jeans. Sure, it wasn’t flashy, but it had an air of comfortable familiarity that kept crowd and band at ease over nearly two hours and parts of 26 songs.

Jackson came into town with his eight piece band for the “Freight Train Tour”, a name that belied the sleepy, workmanlike ease with which the chart topper delivered his hits. Opening up with a pleasant “Gone Country”, Jackson eased the diverse crowd of young girls, old men and everyone in between into a comfortable singalong. After “Summertime Blues” Jackson delivered the crowd’s marching orders for the night, saying, “We’re pretty laid back up here. We just play some of the songs from the past twenty years and hope you know some of ’em. So sing, drink, dance, have some fun.”

With most fans choosing to sit and enjoy the sound and only some dancing, the stoic band kept a nice, easy groove through “I Don’t Even Know Your Name” as Jackson distributed a seemingly inexhaustible supply of guitar picks to the adoring fans in the front two rows. A somber stretch followed with the slow and sweet “A Woman’s Love”, the slow and pretty “Southern Man”, and the slow and drowsy “It’s Just That Way” interrupted only briefly by “Who’s Cheatin’ Who”. By the time the fiddle player introduced “Itty Bitty” the grateful crowd showed their appreciation for uptempo by getting up out of their seats for some singing and dancing.

“Daddy Let Me Drive” was a clear favorite, and it was a sight to see some grizzled, sleeveless, tatted old men mouthing along with the words and tearing up to the tale of Jackson’s own recently deceased father. Emotions continued to run high during the patriotic ballad “Where Were You”, an earnest moment that the band and audience seemed to cherish. A junk-blues slide guitar intro lightened the mood for a playful take on “Don’t Rock the Jukebox”.

At this point in the night a set of bar stools were brought to the stage for a “Storytellers” like segment during which Jackson and company played bits of his hits from the past twenty years while giving brief backgrounds of their songwriting circumstances. “Real World”, for example, was Jackson’s first indication that he and his wife would be alright as he pursued a career in country music. “Neon Rainbow” was about his father’s jukebox, which now sits in the Country Music Hall of Fame. And “Sissy’s Song” was a heartbreaker about a family friend that Jackson lost. “Blues Man” was the best of the bunch, a longer snippet brushed with mournful mandolin that made it stand out amongst the other slower ballads.

“Mercury Blues” picked things up with an impromptu drum solo, but it took another ballad to really get the crowd out of their seats. “Remember When” had couples slow dancing in the aisles as the band played beneath a sweet, touching video of black and white photos telling stories of families. It was the highest point of a slowed down show, and it showed that Jackson’s songs pack enough emotion to continue to fill arenas.

A fun run rounded things out with quick jumps through “Good Time”, “Country Boy”, Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Chattahoochee” closing out the main set. Each was an unadorned, mid-tempo or quicker country-rocker and all had the crowd waking up and partying in their rows. Just as it began to turn into a raucous Friday night Jackson thanked the crowd and the band left the stage.

They returned for a bit with “Where I Come From”, a nice enough song that was aided by a video shot on the way into town which featured sights from around the area. This being Connecticut there were equal cheers for the Yankees and the Red Sox, something that would never be allowed in Boston. An ecstatic “Great Balls of Fire” cover closed the night out, the band playing on as Jackson signed everything from hats to ticket stubs to cowboy boots passed up to him from a crush of fans in the front row. It wasn’t the most high energy country show around, but it was one of the most high quality, showing that Jackson knows that sometimes you just want something comfortable and easy.

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