The federal government was shut down and the flu bug was hitting hard all over the nation, but a little after 10 on Saturday night, it was “five o’clock somewhere” and all was right at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock thanks to a country music legend and a song that’s come to represent taking a little time to grab a drink and relieve some stress.
Hey, maybe that’s what America needs right now.
It certainly worked for the 10,849 fans who sang along to the rowdy leaving-work anthem “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” as scenes from the video featuring a tiki bar played on a big screen. Hall of Famer Alan Jackson, saving one of his best for late in the evening, can still thrill a crowd, and he seemed to enjoy doing so with that No. 1 smash hit from the summer of 2003.
It was immediately preceded by two more crowd favorites, “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and “Remember When,” on Jackson’s Arkansas stop on his aptly named “Honky Tonk Highway Tour.” In fact, it was an outright honky-tonk Saturday night as he delivered plenty of traditional country music while also sharing memories and anecdotes from a career that since his signing with Arista in 1989 has produced 35 No. 1 hits. “It’s been a crazy bunch of years,” he said of his almost 30-year career.
With a white cowboy hat and that big smile, Jackson had strolled onto the stage and launched into “Gone Country” over an hour earlier, the first of hit after country hit. Along the way, he did exactly as he’d promised the crowd early on when he said, “I’m just gonna play y’all some real country music.”
Other highlights included his cover of Charly McClain’s hit “Who’s Cheatin’ Who” that he sent up the charts as well, the tribute to his father “Drive (For Daddy Gene),” the always respected salute to 9/11 “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” and the just-plain-fun “Chattahoochee.”
Lauren Alaina opened the show with “Georgia Peaches” and proceeded, as her Daddy tells her in “Three,” to “sing her heart out.” At the end of her seven-song set, she seemed to relish performing “What Ifs,” her duet with Kane Brown that hit No. 1, as well as “Road Less Traveled,” which also was a chart-topper for the former American Idol runner-up.