Two words that simply describe Penticton Saturday night and fittingly it is the first hit Alan Jackson greeted fans to at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
A video package rolled for his introduction putting the chances that one small town southern man earning a No. 1 hit country song at just over 11.5 million to one. It’s amazing to think Jackson has 35 of them.
The country legend played Penticton in 2009, nevertheless it was still a sold out crowd at the SOEC proving the man’s status as an amazing talent. One couple told me they drove from Chilliwack to see him, it is the fourth time they have seen the country musician live, but the first time they were going to be front and centre. The smiles on their faces as they told me memories of previous shows, clued me in we were in for something special. As anticipation for the show built they wished to get Jackson’s autograph and maybe catch one of those dozens of guitar picks he has become known for throwing out to the audience.
Suited simply in his signature white cowboy hat tipped low, blue jeans and a black t-shirt, Jackson took a moment to soak in the audience as he was stringing his guitar around his neck. He even mouthed the words “wow” as if in awe anyone actually was there to see him.
Immediately we were thrown into what makes Jackson so special. His songwriting skills and amazing delivery of old honky tonk mixed with a bit of new country sound gave everyone a glimpse into his life growing up in Georgia with the songs Livin’ on Love and crowd pleaser Summertime Blues.
About half way through the show, Jackson took a moment to sit down on stage with his band (the Strayhorns, who have been with him since 1989) telling the crowd it had been a long time since he got his start in country music. He lamented over his first single released, Blue-Blooded Woman in late 1989 that did not reach the Top 40.
“It was sad. I wasn’t happy about it,” he told the audience. “It was bad. My wife came home and decided to be pregnant again and we weren’t quite ready for it. I thought I would have to go back to work again. Luckily this next song came out and I haven’t had to work since.”
Here In The Real World became a stepping stone for Jackson in his career, launching him into country stardom and numerous awards. He then played Pop a Top, So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore and got a band member to throw on a toque to give his best Zac Brown impersonation while they performed the Grammy award-winning hit duet As She’s Walking Away. By the time he got to hits Good Time, It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere and Chattahoochee he had almost everyone in the building up dancing in their seats or two-stepping on the floor. The audience screamed with delight as video rolled on the three screens behind Jackson and two to the sides of the stage of Penticton landmarks, including a special appearance by the Penticton fire department, while he played Where I Come From. After 20 tracks the crowd wasn’t quite ready for Jackson to say goodbye and the ground rumbled as people banged on their seats and cheered for him to do an encore. He gladly came back out to perform Mercury Blues, taking time to sign as many autographs as he could while the band played on through the extended middle section.
“To me country music’s about being in love, having your heart broke, drinkin’, partyin’, livin’ and dyin’, family and where you grew up,” said Jackson.
Nearly every one of those life-lessons was brought up Saturday night in the SOEC and Jackson delivered them with class and sincerity. Oh, and that couple from Chilliwack, they got their autograph, guitar pick and memories that will probably carry them to their fifth Alan Jackson show.
Opening Act: Livvy Jeanne
The Albertan songstress Livy Jeanne’s first album was called Under The Radar, but opening for Alan Jackson on Saturday night it’s easy to see how she wont be out of the spotlight for much longer.
Just graduated from high school, the singer/songwriter has spent time with One More Girl and producer Tom McKillip. She performed a mix of originals and cover’s of All Right Now and I Want You Back that were well received by the SOEC audience.