CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A mostly full Charleston Civic Center turned out Saturday night as the Alan Jackson Freight Train Tour roared into West Virginia.
Jackson, who simultaneously embraced and vindicated the music video outlet during the mid-1990s, brought his satchel of hits and a fine nine-piece band to Charleston, all the while donating a portion of proceeds from ticket sales to the families of the miners who lost their lives in the April 5 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.
Early on, the white-hat toting Jackson dedicated the evening's performance to the 29 miners who died and to the many rescue workers in attendance. A tribute to those lost was definitely the emotional high point of an evening that that also celebrated the two decades of hits that Jackson has enjoyed.
Sharp, haunted tones reverberated from the steel guitar of Robbie Flynt, originally from Sylvester, as the faces of the miners flashed on two large screens on either side of the stage. As each name and face appeared, cheers reverberated through the crowd. Jackson followed the heart-felt tribute with his post 9/11 anthem, "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning."
In the early '90s, few singers enjoyed the extended chart success Jackson did. Looking back on his 20 years of hits, one thing rings true about Jackson's material: the hits have lasted. Songs like "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and "Gone Country" sound as good today as they did when they were first released when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were making waves in pop music.
Jackson has charted so many singles that most tunes from his first decade, like "Here in the Real World," and "Chasin' that Neon Rainbow" were relegated to sit-down, bar-stool renditions that often featured a single chorus before Jackson moved on to another chart-topper.
Jackson represents a generation of country music that was quick to embrace the music video as a new format. His high-quality videos did as much to validate a very fresh concept that was "Country Music Television" as the nascent channel did for his young career.
Opener Josh Turner showcased his youthful but vibrant baritone voice that echoes predecessors like Randy Travis and George Jones (his cover of Jones' "The Race Is On" was a highlight). With several early hits, much like Alan Jackson, Turner might find himself in the headliner position before too long, showcasing his already stocked bag of hit songs.
The same could be predicted for the first act, Chris Young, whose new career already has two radio hits under his belt.