Buy one headliner, get the other one free. That's what lured a near-capacity crowd to the first concert of the season at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre on Saturday night. The double bill of Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson was a rarity in Chicago, where either act could easily fill a venue on its own. So for more than two hours, the hard-partying country die-hards heard some of the best stuff out of Nashville.
Not much of the music was new, though, thanks to a heavy reliance on classic hits, such as Brooks & Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie" and "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You" -- or, in Jackson's case, ballads such as "Remember When" and more stand-up-and-sing tunes such as "Chattahoochee." And most of the concert shtick -- T-shirt catapults, Chicago-area video footage and patriotic streamers -- has all been done before.
But the songwriting talent and musicianship outweighed any predictability. Kix Brooks played multiple instruments throughout a 14-song set (mandolin, harmonica and an assortment of guitars), in addition to the accompanying 10-man band. And Dunn's seasoned vocals never faltered, even when he faded into the background so Brooks could sing lead on "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)." Later in the set, Brooks invited a few Marines to come onstage during "Only in America" to build a memorial to our fallen soldiers out of a soldier's gun, hat and combat boots.
Despite some feedback problems, Jackson's set was the kind country fans know and love: Jackson on an acoustic guitar, all 6-foot-4 inches of him, playing and singing what he called "songs about life and love and all that stuff in between."
His current single -- "A Woman's Love" -- received a warm reaction, but it was his surefire hits from the past 16 years of stardom that moved the fans to dance, sing along and even shed a few tears. Jackson closed the show, Brooks & Dunn at his side, with the Luther Dixon/Al Smith classic "Big Boss Man."
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