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Despite its title, Alan Jackson has said that his current "Last Call: One More for the Road" tour isn't necessarily a farewell to his fans. The Country Music Hall of Famer revealed last year that a nervous system disease called Charcot-Marie Tooth has affected his mobility and sense of balance. But Jackson, 63, says he wants to keep playing as long as he can — and a full house at Austin's Moody Center on Friday night let him know that they're grateful for every moment.
Though Jackson hadn't played here in more than a decade, his fans clearly haven't forgotten him. They sang and danced along to hits that made him one of country's top recording artists of the 1990s, when he reeled off more than 30 top-10 hits. He had 17 more in the following decade before finally starting to slow down in the 2010s.
So you can forgive him if he condensed a few favorites into one-verse-and-chorus excerpts during a stretch in which he reminisced about the early years when he moved to Nashville from Georgia and his career started to catch fire. If he'd tried to play all of his hits in their entirety, we'd have been at the Moody all night.
His fans might have been just fine with that, given the thunderous ovation he received after playing the nostalgic 2003 chart-topper "Remember When." But Jackson's 90-minute performance probably was pushing his limit: On occasional strolls to great both sides of the arena, he moved gingerly, and he used a small support structure to help him stand at center stage. The brace was so subtle it was almost invisible; when Jackson rested on it as if leaning against a lamppost, he appeared to defy gravity with a laid-back stance that matched his easy-going demeanor.
On several occasions, Jackson spoke with the audience as if they were old friends, and he repeatedly expressed his gratitude for their support across the decades. Much of his success has come from how relatable his music is: Even his song about 9-11, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," pointedly sought to include a wide swath of Americans' reactions to that day.
Friday night, he was at his best on "Drive," the title track from his 2002 album. Written for his father, who died in 2000, it's a near-perfect song about how his father let him drive the family pickup on back roads when he was young, a tradition Jackson passed on to his daughters. As a writer, Jackson has a gift for finding the emotional pull of the simple treasures in life and setting them to memorable melodies fleshed out by traditional country instrumentation, including guitar, fiddle, mandolin, dobro and pedal steel.
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His eight-piece backing band gave him solid support throughout, whether pulling back on ballads such as "The Blues Man," swinging with style on the pop nugget "Little Bitty" or cranking up the intensity on the bluesy "Country Boy." Their vocal harmonies were splendid on Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road," which Jackson said wasn't on his prepared set list but, "I just felt like singing it." He seemed not quite sure how it went, saying "I should've left that one on the shelf" afterward; but from my seat, it sounded wonderful. (It marked the second time the song has been played at the Moody, following the Eagles' rendition in May.)
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Almost everything Jackson played was a hit, but his best-known song is "Chattahoochee," which he held till nearly the end of the night. Fans reveled in its danceable beat and its catchy "hotter than a hoochee-coochee" chorus before he closed with "Where I Come From," which featured jumbotron footage tailored to the Austin crowd. He returned for a rockin' encore of "Mercury Blues" before one last wave and thank-you to his fans.
Opening act Cory Farley played a 45-minute set of rocked-up country with a three-piece backing crew that succeeded in one respect: It made the headliner look much better by comparison. A regular of Nashville's fabled Lower Broad nightclub district, Farley sounded not ready for prime time, with a muddy sound mix and original songs that were often hackneyed or cartoonish (see "You Can Go Farm Yourself"). He didn't fare much better with covers, kicking off a medley of what he described as 1990s country favorites with a 1986 song by rock band Georgia Satellites.
1. "Gone Country" (abbreviated)
2. "I Don’t Even Know Your Name"
3. "Livin’ on Love"
4. "Summertime Blues"
5. "The Blues Man"
6. "Who’s Cheatin’ Who"
7. "Here in the Real World" (abbreviated)
8. "Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow" (abbreviated)
9. "Seven Bridges Road" (abbreviated)
10. "The Older I Get"
11. "Little Bitty"
12. "Country Boy"
13. "Good Time"
14. "Drive (For Daddy Gene)"
15. "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)"
16. "Don’t Rock the Jukebox"
17. "Remember When"
18. "It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere"
20. "Where I Come From"
21. "Mercury Blues"
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Alan Jackson sings the hits for adoring fans at Austin's Moody Center