A Houstonian doesn’t have to be a country music fan to recognize Alan Jackson’s music. From truck commercials to bars to sports stadiums, Jackson’s music is part of the city’s musical landscape.
That’s why he’s now performed at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo 22-times in his 25 year career. That’s why he’s one of only eight members of the Rodeo’s Star Trail of Fame, alongside legends like Elvis Presley, Charley Pride and George Strait.
Even if Jackson’s hair is a little grayer now than in his first Rodeo performance in 1992, he still looks the part of a country crooner in his blue jeans, boots and white, broad-brimmed cowboy hat.
A crowd of 74,695 — easily the biggest of the Rodeo's first week — filled the seats and aisles of NRG Stadium, two-stepping through their favorites and clapping at the end of every familiar tune. Unlike some of the younger acts on the bill, Jackson’s audience spans multiple generations. Parents and grandparents with kids in tow settled in for an evening of traditional country music.
“I’ve had more hits than I can remember and sold more records that I can imagine. Texas has been really great to me."
He strode onto the stage and immediately launched into the song that’s provided the motto for his career, “Gone Country.”
After briefly introducing his band the Stray Horns, Jackson launched into what was surely an unnecessary introduction: Telling the crowd he sings songs on topics like “Life, love, heart, drinking and dancing and having a good time.
“I hope I play something you like tonight,” he concluded before moving into the heart of his set with "Living on Love."
He needn’t have worried.
“I’ve had more hits than I can remember and sold more records that I can imagine. Texas has been really great to me,” Jackson told the crowd. “I have to say thanks to the Houston Rodeo. They’ve been so great to me over the years.”
The set showed Jackson’s mastery of his audience. Cellphones swayed throughout the stadium during 9/11 tribute “Where Were You?” Then the crowd sang along to familiar hits like “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and “Honky Tonk Dream.”
In the absence of Zac Brown (he’ll be here Thursday), Jackson sang a duet with his guitarist, who donned Brown’s signature stocking cap, for a cover of “Walking Away.”
Jackson even deviated from the pre-show set list by dropping in a new song from his upcoming album, the rockabilly-tinged "You Never Know.” If it sounds like it could have come from his first, well, that’s just country music, y’all.
After indulging in a little nostalgia, with the sentimental ballad “Remember When,” Jackson kicked it into high gear for the remainder of the set. As he noted, it was Saturday night.
Jackson exited onto the back of a pickup truck after the final chords of closer “Cornbread” leaving the crowd wanting more. Not to worry, he’ll probably be back next year.
Alan Jackson's Rodeo Set List:
Livin' on Love
Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?
Don’t Rock the Jukebox
Chasin That Neon Rainbow
As She's Walking Away
You Never Know
It's 5 O’Clock Somewhere
Cornbread and Chicken