February 11, 2011
Winstar World Casino
Thackerville, OK USA
Review by Karen LeCour
Photos by Pepe LeCour
As Alan Jackson slowly sauntered toward center stage - while a multi-screen video collage played familiar footage from "I Don't Even Know Your Name" - it was easy to understand why an energized crowd at the Winstar World Casino was pumped up and ready to go. Dressed in his familiar faded blues, western shirt and cream-colored cowboy hat, Jackson wasted no time giving the audience what it wanted to hear.
Pulling tunes from an album catalog featuring 25 No. 1 songs, this country music legend put together a sizzling set list of one recognizable hit after another. The music was even more effective because of the five video screens behind Jackson that delivered visual punches to accentuate his signature baritone voice. Backed-up with solid playing from his band, the Strayhorns, the angular singer couldn't have disappointed the crowd even if he wanted to.
Jackson has an honest and sincere approach to his songwriting that's reflected in his persona on stage. He's a man of few words in between songs. However, when he does speak, and tells the stories behind the songs he's about to sing, the tunes take on a personal tone for his audience. One such instance was the remarks he made about "Drive," a tribute he wrote to his father after his death. The other was one of his early handiworks, "Chasing That Neon Rainbow," a song he wrote about a contest his father had won where the grand prize was a radio.
When Jackson did choose to slow it down a bit, he opted for a soulful tribute to Hank Williams, Jr. with "Blues Man," and stirring rendition of "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." That song, written by the Newnan, Georgia native after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, temporarily silenced the raucous crowd as he performed the song in front of a smoky, starlit backdrop. A truly moved crowd gave Jackson a well-deserved standing ovation at its conclusion. Jackson, surprisingly, even included the Zac Brown hit "As She's Walking Away," where he does guest vocals, in his set.
The remainder of the night was a flurry of upbeat No. 1 numbers - "Don't Rock the Jukebox", "Country Boy," "Good Time", "Five O'clock Somewhere," "Chattahoochee" and "Where I Come From." A definite crowd pleaser was the video that played during "Where I Come From" that incorporated several images of nearby Texas and Oklahoma landscapes, which brought resounding cheers of approval from the already supportive crowd. As Jackson left the stage, he continued to throw guitar picks, as he had done generously throughout the evening, into the more than appreciative crowd. The band returned for an encore performance and rocked the house to "Mercury Blues."
Jackson is one of the few country artists today who actually relies on his own talents as a songwriter to get his message across. He's been doing it successfully for 20 years. Judging by his performance at the Winstar Casino, his dispatches are being received loud and clear. Now, if I could just learn to walk away from the blackjack tables when I'm "Right on the Money."