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POP REVIEWS : George Jones' Myth Persists at the Greek

November 02, 1987|DON WALLER

Turning the Greek Theatre into an open-air honky-tonk on Halloween night might've seemed like a good idea in July or even late last week, but Saturday's inclement weather led to a certain, uh, dampening of the true, 100-proof spirits. Not to mention a quarter-capacity crowd.

Which was too bad. 'Cause, on paper, it was a strong triple-bill: Rosie Flores, doin' her swingin' little rockin' country thing; Ricky Van Shelton, riding high with three hits from his first album, all in a back-to-the-barrooms, "new traditionalist" mode; and headliner George Jones, boasting one of America's most individual vocal styles, not to mention a chart record that goes back more than three decades.

Matter of fact, there wasn't a lick played Saturday night that wouldn't have sounded out of place on any truck-stop jukebox any time in the last 30 years. Which partially explains the presence of four decades' worth of fans.

Looking downright fetching in a fringed, turquoise, orange and black cowgirl outfit--it was Halloween--L.A.'s Flores and her backing quartet were fairly well-received, considering they were playing to an audience in raincoats and umbrellas, most of whom didn't have a clue to who she was.

On stage, as on her recent debut LP, Flores sounds a lot like Patsy Cline. Musically, she can pick. Her best moments came on the slow, title-tells-all "God May Forgive You (but I Won't)" and the rockafilly "Crying Over You," for which she was joined by the song's writer, local quiffs 'n' riffster James Intveld.

Long, lean and clean-shaven Ricky Van Shelton and his quartet sped though their half-hour set, alternating between his hits--the rock-solid "Crime of Passion" (a good choice for Dave Edmunds' next LP), the ordinary "Wild Eyed Dream" and the conversational, confessional "Somebody Lied"--and some where-I'm-comin'-from numbers, ranging from Bob Wills to the BoDeans.

Following a brief bit of stage-warming from the six-member Jones Boys, the silver-haired East Texan known as "the Possum" made his entrance. Despite years of legendary alcohol abuse, Jones is still capable of the subtle, sudden, velvety drop to a husky, lower register, the sharp slide into clenched-throat emphasis at the top end, and the butterfly arabesques in the middle. All of which makes him the white counterpart of fellow Texas soul singer Bobby (Blue) Bland, whom--if the only country star nicknamed after a marsupial ever really wants to get ornery--Jones should record a duet with sometime.

Mostly, Jones gave a greatest-hits show, highlighted by the 500-part harmony sing-along on "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and a marvelous song about a Corvette in which women, cars, memories and histories all come together in one rich, four-on-the-floor metaphor.

Much of Jones' appeal lies in his audience's willingness to believe that he's lived each song. And while the myth-mongering does require hip boots, the now-sober Jones can't take it too seriously himself. Why else would he open with "No-Show Jones"--a tune that refers to his former propensity for disappearing for weeks in a drunken haze. But insobriety 'n' infidelity, heartbreak 'n' sentimentality--like Jones himself--haven't exactly disappeared these days either.

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