JACKSON LIVE CONCERT REVIEW - ROD LAVER ARENA 5 MARCH 2011
5 - 2011
ALAN JACKSON-JASMINE RAE-MCALISTER KEMP
ROD LAVER ARENA
DROUGHT, FLOODS AND MUSICAL SOLACE
have copped beltings from the drought, floods and insurance companies
but the busloads of sons and daughters of the soil descended on the big
smoke like, ah, locusts.
Most of the capacity crowd forked out their hard earned cash long before
Jupiter Pluvious cried into their parched crops and washed away their
Hell, what a way to drain your sorrows - at $9.80 a pop for hard liquor,
$7.50 for a house white or red and maybe less for a beer.
Georgian superstar Alan Jackson has only toured here once in 52 years
so it was well worth the wait to catch him and his hotshot touring band
The Strayhorns, the artist's stage sidekicks since 1989, are little like
They're on such a nice earner they don't leave until they go to God or
get an even better offer.
not many better offers in music in the new millennia than playing
with an artist of Jackson's calibre - job security with fly by night
rappers, rockers, dance dudes and poppies is decidedly dodgy.
So for support acts - Fawkner raised Jasmine Rae and McAlister Kemp,
from up north of the Murray-Dixon line - it was a rare opportunity
to air their freshly minted music to a capacity crowd.
Rae, a pocket rocket from the cemetery suburb hosting Underbelly killing
fields, exploded like the weapons of choice as she showcased tunes
from her two Mark Moffatt produced albums.
The one time music teacher enlisted a combative combo featuring veteran
drummer Mitch Farmer.
It was somewhat
fitting that Jackson and his Strayhorns were preceded by a sound system
medley - septuagenarian Merle Haggard's classic I'll Just Stay Here
And Drink and Alan's recently deceased Alabama mentor Vern Gosdin's
equally apt Set 'Em Up Joe.
Yes, the boys and girls from the bush descended from the level one bars
to the floor seats lugging six packs of spirits and beer.
It was a long night and they were thirsty as their paddocks before Noah
created more work for the city slickers climate control growth industry.
The dimming of the lights enabled the now seated audience to a video preview
of Jackson's latest album 34 Number Ones - despite the artist walking
the Arista-Sony plank on the eve of the tour.
Jackson didn't scrimp on his music - his eight-piece band preceded him
onto centre court without a net.
It was a succession of hits - just seven shy of the 34 on the disc - in
a marathon two hour plus show that had the audience on its feet from the
The Bob McDill penned social comment entrée classic Gone Country
set the mood and segued into the flippant I Don't Even Know Your Name.
The laconic troubadour proved a moving picture was worth a thousand crowds
by saying little and letting his video clips pick up the slack.
little slack in the Strayhorns - every moan of pedal steel from Robbie
Flint and Mark McLurg's fiery fiddle and mandolin were front and centre
in the mix.
So was the honky tonk piano of Joey Schmidt - no, never any danger of
drums and guitars derailing this freight train.
By song three it was time for Jackson to drawl a few words - well, he
named himself and added "we just pick and sing" and invited
fans to sip and sing along.
Yes, Jackson was the best human jukebox to belatedly fly south since old
Billy Joe Shaver, Shotgun Willie, the late Waylon and the boys.
This was bucolic bliss - pure country with just enough gear changes to
keep the cogs clicking with a nostalgia side dish.
Living On Love, the late Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues, A
Woman's Love and then a two stepping Pop A Top with those gently
weeping twin fiddles took us back to days of yore.
It could have been a Texas dance hall - not a Yarra bank barn - but for
the Chippewa Falls place sign in the video clip.
Town Southern Man, that became Small Town Southern Australian
Man, and Who's Cheating Who were punctuated by a multi-instrumental
feast in his Hank Williams Jr tribute - The Blues Man.
The aural and visual nuptials were consummated with fiddle, mandolin
and pedal steel all depicted equally.
So it was natural that the fiddle driven Little Bitty, replete
with kids in the audience enjoying cameo roles on the stage video,
zeroed in on a Michael Long lookalike reliving his youth.
My apologies to the legendary footy star, guitarist and Long Walk
creator if, a long time country picker, if he was in attendance
and he was no mere shadow of himself.
It seemed a vast army of brothers proved they had far more musical
taste than the absentee corporate radio chain czars.
delivered impassioned versions of paternal tribute Drive
for his late dad Eugene and Where Were You When The World Stopped
Turning for the 9-11 victims in New York City and beyond.
pacing was impeccable - he followed rollicking George Jones tribute Don't
Rock The Juke Box with Alison Krauss produced Like Red On A Rose.
player Flint picked up the dobro for Country Boy but returned
to his instrument of choice for George Jones penned Tall, Tall
Trees before the singer introduced his band - not to each other
- but the audience.
Jackson serious pause to reflect on the lean years on his arrival
in Guitar Town was interrupted by some serious love calls from fans
of the female persuasion.
Jackson reboarded his train of thought to recall his debut single
"died a miserable death" just before wife Denise went into
foal for the first time. No mention of career mid-wife - former Melbourne
Spurs Bar boss and his embryonic Nashville manager Barry Coburn -
before he revived first his Here In The Real World.
By now the artist assembled his Strayhorns on stationary stools for
an acoustic set with reflections on song writing and "singing
demos for $35 a song."
a little humor as the singer praised acoustic guitarist Monty Allen for
his adoption of a beanie for his duet role as fellow Georgian Zac Brown
in their recent #1 hit As She's Walking Away.
By now the
videos were peaking - wife Denise appeared in Remember When, a
cast of thousands in Good Times and singing sailor and recent Sydney
stage diver Jimmy Buffett in It's 5 0'Clock Somewhere.
is content with spectatorial duties - especially when the star dispensed
more collectors' item plectrums into the audience than singing Texan crime
novelist Kinky Friedman.
The stage invasions by a flotilla of buxom beauties and occasional beefy
bloke hit top gear during autograph signing in Chattahoochee and encore
entrée Where I Come From.
latter, featuring a collage of Melbourne landmarks diverse as Fed
Square, Docklands, Flinders Street Station, National Gallery and Yarra
bridges, was the icing on the gateau.
Sequencing reached new creative heights when a Melbourne Cricket Club
members' section coat of arms followed hot on the heels of a Bin Laden
Nice one - video editor.
Jackson closed with the rollicking Mercury Blues.
The Strayhorns did most of the work as the artist punctuated autographs
to reciprocate with hugs and kisses for stage invaders - mostly of
the female persuasion.
Jackson's road crew and security exercised an admirable restraint
- with decamping stage invaders not suffering the fate of Buffett
at the Hordern.
And you might be wondering what was the music like?
Strayhorns excelled with a superior sound mix - it was so clear it even
depicted the amphibian in Jackson's throat.
And, of course, Jackson did justice to his deep and lucrative catalogue
- with a predominance of accessible originals.
It's a helluva 21 year catalogue to pick from - the only major omission
for completists may have been Fred Eaglesmith penned 18th album title
track Freight Train and Hard Hat And A Hammer.
But if fellow Grammy awarding winning Texan Miranda Lambert hadn't suffered
an 11th hour respiratory ailment the set may have been shorter.
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