FAIRBORN — He’s a country music hall of famer who really needs no introduction.
But prior to taking the stage at Wright State University’s Nutter Center March 16, Alan Jackson received one humdinger of a howdy as a video rattled off his long list of awards and paid tribute to his legacy and longevity.
And then the 59-year-old stayed true to his roots as the opener, a chorus-only version of “Gone Country” suggests. In a day and age when many country stars are tempted to crossover into the pop genre, Jackson has stayed country and was at his honkytonk best. Wearing his trademark cowboy hat and boots, the two-time Grammy Award winner — who will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June — ran through some of his top toe-tapping tunes including “Livin’ on Love,” “Chattahoochee,” “Little Bitty,” and “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” albeit it was a shortened version of the latter.
Jackson appeared to labor a tad as he walked around the stage throughout the nearly two-hour performance, but his voice was in fine shape as he belted out hits like “Remember When,” “Drive (For Daddy Gene),” and Hank Williams Jr., cover “The Blues Man.”
During what’s become a seemingly obligatory sit-down portion of concerts, Jackson ran through 90-second versions of early hits “Here in the Real World” and “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” along with a full version of new song “The Older I Get.” He even showed he can ad lib, playing his cover of the Nat Stuckey-penned “Pop a Top” in full (Jim Ed Brown had the first hit with it in 1967). He closed the seated song session with another cover, Zac Brown’s “As She’s Walking Away.”
Jackson also drew some “USA, USA” chants after a flawless and stirring rendition of Sept. 11, 2001 response “Where Where You (When the World Stopped Turning).” Most in the sellout crowd showed their appreciation by turning on cell phone flashlights and holding them up (nobody carries lighters anymore apparently). At the end, the video screen that had been showing videos of songs as he played them showed an iconic photo of first responders with an American flag at Ground Zero.
Earlier in the night, Jackson explained that because he had so many songs to play, he had to condense some of them. Interestingly enough, he chose another cover for his encore, “Mercury Blues,” penned by K.C. Douglas and Robert Geddins.
Female trio Runaway June opened the show with ear-pleasing harmonies that are a blend of different styles and backgrounds. The three have created a sound that’s been missing from country music for more than a decade and are quickly making a name for themselves. They featured hits “Lipstick” — the first by a female trio in over a decade to go top 30 — and “Wild West,” along with some other original material, and a few covers.
Featuring lead singer/guitarist Naomi Cooke, singer/guitarist Jennifer Wayne — granddaughter of legendary actor John Wayne — and singer/mandolin picker Hannah Mulholland, Runaway June is up for new vocal duo or group of the year at the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards, to be held Sunday, April 15 in Las Vegas.
Cooke announced that the show in Fairborn was the group’s first as an official CMA nominee.
Based on a small, but fantastic sample of what the three can do on stage, they’ll be taking the stage many times as an award nominee.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.