North Charleston Coliseum
Around 7,000 people donned their cowboy hats at the Coliseum on Thursday night and watched a performer who's been a part of many of their lives for a long time: country legend Alan Jackson.
Opening with the classic "Gone Country," Jackson sauntered casually around the stage, throwing picks to the crowd and singing virtually every big hit of his 20-plus year career. Music videos played on the screens as he effortlessly crooned "Livin' on Love," "Tall Tall Trees," "Small Town Southern Man," and dozens of others.
Jackson introduced "Drive" by saying, "My daddy died and I didn't want to write something real sad. So I just remembered being a kid when all I wanted to do was drive something." The moment illuminated the genius of country music: stories that nearly everyone can relate to. Almost everyone remembers their dad letting them drive for the first time and the whirlwind of family memories it brings.
Two teenage girls recording the show on a cell phone were annoyed by the elderly couple dancing in front of them, but both were a testament to the universality of the songs. A few rows back, an even older woman who couldn't stand moved her lips softly along to every single song of the night.
Before playing his first-ever hit, "Here in the Real World," the always modest Jackson said, "I've been very lucky, and I always remember to say thanks for supporting the music. We just hope you like it." As if there was any doubt.
Perhaps the biggest applause came during "Where Were You," his contemplative post-9/11 song, after the line, "Did you burst out in pride for the red, white, and blue?" and again after the last line, "Faith, hope, and love are some good things/He gave us, and the greatest is love."
Even less-inspired recent songs, "Country Boy" and "Good Time," tapped right into the lives of fans who've been "Working all week and they don't want to sleep and they want to have fun." The lyrics brings the performer and fan to within one degree of separation.
As images of Charleston and South Carolina splashed across the screens, and the audience alternated roars for USC and Clemson, Jackson closed with "Where I Come From," yet another message of everyday pride.
There are many problems with ever-more-corporate modern country, but it is so popular because more than any other genre the songs are unabashedly geared toward the people. And boy do they appreciate it.