AP NEWS

Alan Jackson has what it takes to keep his fans coming back for more

March 12, 2017

Alan Jackson’s RodeoHouston set barely changes from year to year.

His Saturday night show at NRG Stadium was nearly identical to his last appearance in 2015, down to the song order.

He kicked off with the feel-goodisms of “Gone Country,” “Livin’ on Love” and “Little Bitty” followed by wistful ode to his father “Drive (for Daddy Gene).”

“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” his solemn 9/11 tribute, was accompanied by a sea of cellphone lights.

But perhaps because of the familiarity, it worked. You don’t go to a Jackson show for unpredictability. It’s a well-worn trip down memory lane. And it drew an impressive crowd of 74,259.

This was Jackson’s 23rd RodeoHouston appearance. He’s only the fifth entertainer to perform in front of 1 million fans. He was inducted into the Star Trail of Fame in 2011, joining a group that includes Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Charley Pride and George Strait.

“How y’all holdin’ up out there? Big ol’ crowd. Y’all are everywhere,” Jackson said after kicking up some dust with “Don’t Rock the Jukebox.”

He’s still in fine voice and talked between songs about his history.

“I’ve had so many hits I can’t remember,” he said. “Sold so many records it’s crazy.”

“Here in the World,” his first hit from 1990, was a nice surprise. He sang a bit of it before settling into “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” and covering the Eagles’ “Seven Bridges Road.”

There’s something beautifully quiet and heartbreaking about “Remember When,” Jackson’s gorgeous 2003 ballad. Lyrically, it plays like an Adele or Celine Dion gut-puncher. But Jackson keeps the vocal measured and plaintive, which packs its own emotional wallop.

He picked the tempo back up, just like he did in 2015, for a final stretch that included “Good Time,” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” “Chattahoochee” and “Where I Come From.”

And just as in previous years, the crowd sang along at the top of its lungs and danced in the aisles.

Some things are worth repeating.