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Pop Music Review

A Tactful Jackson Connects

The country star gracefully segues from earlier songs to his wildly popular 'Where Were You,' inspired by Sept. 11.


How you gonna keep 'em down on the Chattahoochee after they've seen ground zero?

Alan Jackson faced that question on two fronts Tuesday at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, where he played his first Southland concert since he transcended mere country music stardom with his Sept. 11-inspired hit "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."

As the genial singer of such lighthearted, and often lightweight numbers as "Chattahoochee" and "Gone Country," the lanky Georgian could have come across as flippant, or worse, irrelevant if his pre-"Where Were You" material weren't handled tactfully.

But as his 90-minute show led up to his masterfully constructed response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, those earlier songs subtly served to underscore the big importance of life's little moments.

A few gained resonance, most notably his first hit, "Here in the Real World," in which he contrasts a world as we might like it to be--where "cowboys don't cry, heroes don't die, and good always wins"--with the one we live in.

The graceful segue from the standard part of the show into the climactic "Where Were You" employed a video montage of Orange County locales projected during "Where I Come From," ending with a close-up of a shoulder patch worn by an Anaheim firefighter saluting his New York counterparts.

As frequently as "Where Were You" has been played on the radio, its string of questions with no easy answers has lost none of its cumulative power nine months down the line. The audience responded with a deafening roar in a moment of shared grief and enduring hope.

But that set up Jackson's second dilemma: How do you follow that moment? He might have chosen not to try at all, or, if an encore was essential, to select a gospel number as spiritual salve to the open emotional wounds.

Instead, he returned with a rocker, "Mercury Blues," presumably as a way to end the evening on an upbeat note. But by engaging in a lengthy autograph-signing session as the band played on and on, he unintentionally let celebrity overshadow the lingering impact of a national tragedy.

Trisha Yearwood opened with an hourlong set spanning her 11-year career, and showcasing her great knack for picking songs that expose real emotion rather than push easy buttons.


Alan Jackson, with Asleep at the Wheel, Sunday at the Greek Theatre, 2700 Vermont Canyon Road, L.A., 7:30 p.m. $25 to $75. (323) 665-1927.

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