Review: Alan Jackson - straight up - plays sincere set at Allstate

by Alison Bonaguro

Special to the Tribune

Published May 2, 2010


Whether he meant it as a humble admission or a bit of a warning, Alan Jackson was right. "I sing, but I don't do much else," he told the not-quite-capacity crowd on Saturday night at the Allstate Arena. And that is exactly what the country traditionalist did. So by managing the fans' expectations from the beginning, he pulled off a likable show that was almost two hours of him singing and not much else.

He was loquacious at times: sitting on a stool with his eight-man band on stools beside him doing a medley of half-songs from his two decades of hits. Songs such as "Wanted," "Chasin' That Neon Rainbow" and "She's Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)" and then lesser-known tunes such as "Song for the Life" and "Home." The stories he told during that half hour ranged from what it was like trying to write songs in a hotel room in Arkansas in the rain, to chasing dreams he had when he was just a kid in Georgia listening to an old radio. Just like his songs, the medley centerpiece was sweet and sentimental without coming off as insincere or forced.

And true to the sincere roots that form the core of his songs, Jackson gave his band The Strayhorns -- guys he called "a good bunch of pickers" -- more than just the standard-issue introductions. He let each player have some solo time in the spotlight.

While Jackson's show lacked the slick stunts of other contemporary country singers—twanged-up classic rock cover songs, cat walks, pyrotechnics and choreography—nearly everyone stayed through the encore. Jackson may have been playing an arenabut he played it with the unassuming attitude of a guy in a honky-tonk just glad to be taking the tip jar home at the end of the night.


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