Coronation night: Alan Jackson takes his place as Houston Rodeo king
It took 18 trips to RodeoHouston, including seven consecutive performances since Houston's cowboy showcase moved from the Astrodome to its new cow palace of Reliant Stadium, but Alan Jackson has ascended to the throne.
Met your new Rodeo king.
With no George Strait, Willie Nelson or Robert Earl Keen in the 2010 edition of RodeoHouston, fair-haired Marlboro Man Jackson emerged as the natural choice to kickoff the party. With the exception of Brooks & Dunn, nobody in this year's line-up has played the Rodeo as many times as Jackson. The man who's made the trip to Houston every year since 1992, except one (2003), earned this opening night slot and a new title.
Jackson, with his aw-shucks style, appeared oblivious to that idea - to really, all the accolades - when he took the stage tonight.
Dressed in his traditional "good guy" cowboy gear - white hat, dark untucked work shirt, legs wrapped tight in faded denim - Jackson went to work trying to cram as many past gems into his 80-minute set as possible.
Beginning in the mid-'90s with boot-stompers "Little Bitty" and "Livin' on Love," a dextrous pedal-steel prelude gave way to the George Jones tribute "Don't Rock the Jukebox."
The set didn't veer far from line-dancing, two-steppin' favorites like "Chattahoochee," and his drawled rendition of "Summertime Blues."
He did give the crowd of more than 49,000 a few minutes of pause on the sweet and nostalgic "Remember When" and on the powerful 9/11 tribute "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)." It was a stone silent and solemn tribute about a moment in history we'd like to forget, set against a night that otherwise celebrated a simpler, better America.
Jackson spins these images in country verse the way Norman Rockwell once painted them. It's this connection that will keep making him a RodeoHouston favorite for years to come.
After Brooks & Dunn play their final RodeoHouston on March 19, as part of their last tour before they break up the band, it will only take Jackson a couple more years to own the RodeoHouston appearance title. Two decades of touring, 26 No. 1 country singles and a new album ("Freight Train)," keep Jackson's momentum rolling along.