It was the end of a long and gruelling football season for many music starved fanatics who invaded the tennis court from the bush and suburbs for the triumphant return of Georgian superstar Alan Jackson.

Some, like this world weary warrior, had much less spring in their step than Jackson's Melbourne debut in March, 2011.

The ravages of time and traffic prevented catching Novocastrian Morgan Evans who kicked the dew off the glass for Sara - no relation.

Evans showcased songs from his two EPS and belated, yet to be released album.

Balancing trays of plastic cups of a vast array of liquid mood modifiers during the descent from the ground level bars to the subterranean seats below was a skill not on the syllabus of secondary and tertiary colleges.

It was not a task I yearned for but it helped ensure some roaming patrons, fresh from parched paddocks and suburban streets, had suffice stimulation for the marathon set by the headliner and the 10 tune appetiser by Missouri born and latter day Birmingham belle Evans.

At 42 the vibrant former dancing diva did justice to the short shorts that exposed lithe legs that never once challenged the high heels that may have brought less agile artists to a crash landing.

Evans kicked off with Born To Fly - an embryonic hit she penned with Marcus Hummon and Darrell Scott.

It was reprised bluegrass style on 2011 studio album Stronger and a Greatest Hits, released here as a double CD for the tour.

The singer struck a familiar note with energized hits As If and Perfect before A Real Fine Place To Start.

She thanked her road band, featuring bassist brother-co-writer Matt, multiple guitarists, drums, keyboards and fiddle, between anecdotes about her extended family.

The singer also extolled virtues of local shopping with revelations about a necklace bought in the Victorian capital - earlier in the day.

Evans also helped balance of trade between the two countries - one on the rebound after the election - and her own on the edge of financial paralysis after muscle flexing by Republicans, the party that once featured her first ex-husband Craig.

The singer acknowledged her two touring daughters, on her shopping spree, before debuting her new single Slow Me Down from an album not due until 2014.

She also gave credit her to four younger sisters in song from her Boonesboro farm era before joking about killing any local rednecks who looked too closely at her daughters in her intro to radio friendly narrative hit Suds In The Bucket.

Evans joked she and second husband Jay Barker - a former NFL quarterback and latter day talkback radio host - had "seven brats" in their home.

That was an accessible entrée to urging patrons to support World Vision, collecting tonight in the corridors of the stadium.

"There are many children without simple things like food, shelter and water," she revealed.

"You can sponsor a child through World Vision."

She then featured Stronger from the Tim McGraw-Gwyneth Paltrow movie Country Strong before a cover of Pink hit Just Give Me A Reason.

Another cover of Roger Cook penned Crystal Gayle hit Talking In Your Sleep preceded a fitting finale for roaming drink carriers - Neon Trees song Everybody Talks.


It was no surprise headliner Jackson sub-consciously emulated John Fogerty, whose tribute disc he graced between Australian tours, by acting out the title of a previous Fogerty disc Déjà vu All Over Again.

Jackson's 25 song set was almost identical in content and sequencing, to his Melbourne debut 18 months ago.

So was the line-up of his hotshot touring band The Strayhorns who have been his stage sidekicks since 1989 - yes, Hawthorn won an AFL premiership that year against Geelong.

But it was the Collingwood club insignia that scored the loudest applause late in the marathon concert on the ever present video screens.

Jackson dialed repeat when he again opened with Bob McDill penned social comment entrée classic Gone Country and segued into the flippant I Don't Even Know Your Name.

The long tall troubadour remarked "it's pretty laid back up here, I wrote this song as a young man" as he revived Living On Love and the late Eddie Cochran relic Summertime Blues.

Jackson deviated from the 2011 sequencing with Small Town Southern (Australian) Man, Hank Williams Jr eulogy The Blues Man and adolescent reflection Little Bitty that enable interactive video to prove children in the audience lowered the demographic.

He ploughed his family roots with Country Boy and paternal tribute Drive (for Gene) that extolled his "hand me down Ford."

Jackson also praised the support by Australia for the U.S. after the Twin Towers terrorist bombings in New York City on September 11, 2001.

"The Australian friendship and support mean so much to us," Jackson revealed, "and the faith, hope and love out of the Bible."

That support has grown by sheer necessity - invasion of Australia by foreign and home grown terrorists born into a fanaticism exploited by the warring urban tribes on the mean streets of our cities and suburbs.

Now, that's an avenue yet to be explored in song here by cutting edge tunesmiths.

It was a salient segue for perhaps Jackson's finest original song Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

The visual images, reprised from his 2011 concert, reinforced the wilful waste of innocent lives.

Jackson perfected his mood swing with his George Jones tribute Don't Rock The Juke Box.

He also recalled how his debut single "died a miserable death" just before wife Denise went into foal for the first time.

He followed with embryonic hit Here In The Real World - the visual version illustrated by movie images of celluloid hero John Wayne.

"Cowboys don't cry, and heroes don't die/ and good always wins/ again and again/ and love is a sweet dream/that always comes true/ oh, if life were like the movies, I'd never be blue."


"Daddy won a radio/ he tuned it to a country show/ I was rocking in the cradle to the crying of a steel guitar/Mama used to sing to me/ she taught me that sweet harmony/ now she worries 'cause she never thought/ I'd ever really take it this far/ singing in the bars and chasing that neon rainbow."

The singer revealed the resurrected radio won by his father now has a wider audience - the Country Music Hall Of Fame - as he introduced another early chart topper Chasing That Neon Rainbow.

He also name checked Alabama, The Judds and Randy Travis - for whom he opened on his ascent - as he explained the significance of his collaboration with Travis on She's Got The Rhythm (And I've Got The Blues.)

Extraneous influences - Under The Influence album to be more precise - prompted It Must Be Love before a leap into the present.

The evocative tear jerker So You Don't Have To Love Me Anymore, penned by nephew Adam Wright and illustrated by a video filmed on Coney Island, appeared to be the only song performed from his 2012 album 30 Miles West.

Then it was back to liquid levity with Pop A Top Again and Who's Cheating Who, punctuated by As She's Walking Away with acoustic guitarist Monty Allen clad in a beanie for his duet role as fellow Georgian Zac Brown from their award winning #1 hit.

Marital nostalgia propelled Remember When before dance floor favourites Good Time, with female dancers invading the stage without resistance, and It's 5 O'clock Somewhere featuring a video cameo of duet partner Jimmy Buffett in absentia.

Jackson and his Strayhorns romped down the home straight with Chattahoochee and Where I Come From.

The latter, featuring a collage of Melbourne landmarks diverse as Fed Square, Docklands, Flinders Street Station, National Gallery, bayside beach boxes, trams, trains, trucks, The Espie in St Kilda and Yarra bridges, seemed akin to the 2011 version.

The Melbourne Cricket Club members' section coat of arms was complimented by diverse club emblems for Hawthorn and Collingwood football clubs, Melbourne Heart, Melbourne Storm and Melbourne Victory. Conspicuously absent were weight loss clinics, tattoo parlours, gymnasiums and bikie club houses.

Mercury Blues was, as always, a fitting finale that enabled the artist to sign all apparel within distance.

There was little slack in the Strayhorns - pedal steel from Robbie Flint, Mark McLurg's fiddle and mandolin, the honky tonk piano enriched the traditional country focus.

The Strayhorns did most of the work in the encore as the artist finally ran out of plectrums and rode off into the neon moon with suffice autographs to sate those in the mosh pit.

So was there a criticism?

Well, maybe we yearned to hear some originals from The Bluegrass Album - a welcome spring release.

But Jackson may have been saving that for his Carnegie Hall concert on October 28 after the American debut of videos for Blue Ridge Mountain Song and Blacktop - two originals from the album that debuted at #3 on U.S. charts.

Set List
1 - Gone Country
2 - I Don't Even Know Your Name
3 - Livin' on Love
4 - Summertime Blues
5 - Small Town Southern Man
6 - The Blues Man
7 - Little Bitty
8 - Country Boy
9 - Drive (For Daddy Gene)
10 - Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)
11 - Don't Rock the Jukebox
12 - Here in the Real World
13 - Chasing That Neon Rainbow
14 - She's Got The Rhythm & I've Got The Blues
15 - It must be Love
16 - Pop a Top
17 - So You Don't Have to Love Me Anymore
18 - As She's Walking Away
19 - Who's Cheatin' Who
20 - Remember When
21 - Good Time
22 - It's Five O'Clock Somewhere
23 - Chattahoochee
24 - Where I Come From
25 - Mercury Blues

Review by David Dawson, October 2013

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