Monday, July 15, 2002

Alan Jackson brings patriotism to Riverbend

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        Alan Jackson has had the type of career where each new hit song seems bigger and more significant than the last. “Here In the Real World” was the country-music star's first signature song, but then along came “Chasin' That Neon Rainbow” to take its place. Then it was “Chattahoochee,” and then “Gone Country,” and on and on.

        Judging from the performance of and the crowd's reaction to “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” at Mr. Jackson's Sunday-night show at Riverbend, that song is the newest in the long line of latest, greatest signature tunes, but it's one not likely to be replaced soon.

        Mr. Jackson and his eight-man band's show was filled with country-radio favorites, many of which were written by the 43-year-old Georgia native. (The concert was a make-up date for the scheduled May 16 Riverbend season opener cancelled due to high river levels.)

        Other than Garth Brooks, no other '90s star has had Mr. Jackson's success as a songwriter and singer, but the 95-minute, 21-song show's best moments seemed to come mainly from his well-chosen covers: “Tall Tall Trees,” “Pop A Top,” “Summertime Blues,” “Little Bitty,” “The Blues Man,” “Who's Cheatin' Who,” and the encore of “Mercury Blues.”

        But the highlight, at least as far as the audience was concerned, was “Where Were You,” a ballad written in response to the events of September 11.

        It was the last song of the set, and Mr. Jackson did not introduce it or build it up — he just started singing it. Many people in the audience waved tiny U.S. flags, while others sang along as the lyrics scrolled up video screens flanking each side of the stage.

        Mr. Jackson's impassioned words obviously have made a connection with music fans; it's the biggest 9/11 song anyone has recorded. It's too bad the chorus is wrapped around a dumbed-down admission, from which Mr. Jackson absolves himself through religion: “I'm not sure I could tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran,” he sang, “But I know Jesus and I talk to God.”

        It probably wouldn't hurt Mr. Jackson to learn something about Iraq and Iran. And although their names don't fit neatly into a pop song, he may want to learn about Afghanistan and Pakistan while he's at it.


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