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Alan Jackson’s Honky Tonk Highway Runs Through Rupp Arena On A Chilly Friday Night

If there is one thing that you can say about Central Kentucky with 100% certainty, it is that country music is King. So it should be no surprise, that Alan Jackson kicked off his latest tour at Rupp Arena. Tagging along on this tour, is former American Idol runner-up and fellow Georgian Lauren Alaina.

Rupp Arena was booming as early as 5pm and that’s awesome. Why? Because the local iHeart Media station, WBUL, partners up with a local Watering Hole, Austin City Saloon, to bring you a pre-show in the lobby of Rupp Arena. Together it is called the Austin City Saloon Sound Stage and on this night, one of our favorite local boys, Tyler Booth, occupied the stage.

Hopefully, you have heard the name Tyler Booth before, but if not, no worries it won’t be long. On Thursday, in conjunction with Country Rebel, Tyler released his music video for his debut single, “Hank Crankin People”. That video has received over 567,000 views since it’s release on Thursday. You can check out “Hank Crankin’ People” below.

If you’re wondering how or if Tyler Booth can perform, don’t be. All I can say is this young man has a very bright future and people are simply drawn to him. It’s beautiful to watch and I strongly suggest you catch his show locally soon, because I don’t think he’s going to be local for very long. Part of that notion is knowing who he’s working with in Nashville. Two songwriters that Alan Jackson fans will know are Moose Brown and Don Sampson. Moose wrote, “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” and Don wrote “Midnight In Montgomery”. He’s a young man that is worth a look.

Once the party moved out of the lobby and into Rupp, it was time for Lauren Alaina to take the stage. Ms. Alaina has had a very up and down career that has been very well documented. She was the runner-up to Scotty McCready on the wildly popular, American Idol. That is the only season that I have watched of American idol. I was home recuperating from a shoulder surgery. I will put my $0.02 in here and say that Lauren deserved to win and had it not been for all the teenage girls swooning over Scotty, I feel she would have won.

As with many teenagers who are thrust into the limelight at such an early age. Lauren battled with her self-image and the internet trolls. So much so that she developed an eating disorder. I’m very proud to say that Lauren is not only back on track, but she is as beautiful as ever. A lot of credit can be bestowed on Mr. Alan Jackson. He became a mentor and always believed in her. So for that, we can all be thankful.

Lauren’s set was very high energy, particularly for a Country show. Although, there is a definite pop lean to her sound, which usually tends be a bit more in the upbeat, high-energy side of things. She seemed very comfortable with the Kentucky crowd and had many young ladies singing her lyrics back to her. It was a really cool sight where her music was empowering these young women. Given the garbage news coming out of Hollywood (and to a small extent, Nashville), that was an awesome sight.

Her set was filled with her biggest hits and it was a good experience to see her back on her feet after watching her on American Idol all those years ago. Lauren got more than she bargained for, when she invited a fan onstage for her song, “Next Boyfriend”. Joe is all we know him by, but his legend will live in infamy. He whipped, neigh-neighed, stanky-legged and twerked all over the stage. He even filled in on vocals a few times. Lauren seemed to be enjoying herself, but at that moment, the stage was Joe’s. LONG LIVE THE LEGEND OF JOE!!

Highlights for me included “Georgia Peaches” that somehow turned into Guns ‘N’ Roses “Paradise City”, “Next Boyfriend”, “Doin’ Fine” and of course her biggest hit to date, “Road Less Traveled”. She put on a very memorable set and I walked away impressed.

Next up, was the man of the hour, the one and only, Mr. Alan Jackson. I’ve seen Alan in the past, so I knew going into the show what to expect. Sort of.

When I saw Alan Jackson last year, I made the statement that he is the Burt Reynolds “Bandit” of Country Music. That’s totally a compliment. Let me explain. Alan is so comfortable onstage that you don’t really realize he’s performing. It’s really that easy for him. It’s as if 15,000 people just gathered on his front lawn and we’re hearing the stories from the man himself. That is exactly why an Alan Jackson concert is so darn good.

He has such a vast catalog of music that there is absolutely no way you won’t know at least one song on the night. Alan has sung or penned so many hits that it’s impossible to sing them all on one night, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t try.

Kicking things off with “Gone Country” is the only way to go. Talk about setting the mood, pace, and excitement all at once! Alan Jackson has a way of doing things. It’s not your usual way and by all means, he’s earned the right to do so. I mean, name another artist that will have the band extend a song so he can walk around and toss t-shirts to fans? That’s exactly what he does during several songs. The first time he did it was during, “Here For A Good Time”. We were photographing from the general admission pit when a shirt came at me. I was not concerned with catching the shirt, I was much more concerned with all the fans that became four-star wide receivers trying to catch the shirt with no concern for anyone or my camera. I’m not complaining, I’d do the same as a fan, but I was definitely nervous. Haha

Other highlights were “Summertime Blues” and “Livin’ On Love” as the set rolled on. One particular moment is one that fans will always remember. Alan sat on a barstool, he told us about his band and his early struggles before taking us all back to the songs and the times that elevated him to Superstar status. He played abbreviated versions of “Here In The Real World” and “Wanted”.

Then he told of his Daddy’s radio that he wrote about in the first line of, “Chasing That Neon Rainbow”. He told of how that radio ended up in the Country Music Hall Of Fame, and how he was inducted and placed right beside it. There has never been a more Alan Jackson story ever told and it’s all true.

One moment seemed to mean the world to Mr. Jackson, at least from my perspective. Artists with such a huge catalog of music have a hard time introducing new songs into their set, but apparently not Alan Jackson. He did a great version of his newest song, “The Older I Get” and seemingly much to his surprise, the crowd sang it back to him. You could tell it meant a lot on the night this tour kicked off. Alan also likes to cover “Seven Bridges Road” because his daughter loves the song, I’m with her and so is this little guy!

After the small barstool storyteller set, the hits just kept coming. He tore through, “Little Bitty”, “Country Boy”, “Drive”, an amazing performance of “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning”, that brought out many, many cell phone lights. They all lit up the arena like a field of lightning bugs. That’s a song that will live on forever and rightfully so.

Picking things up again, Alan and the boys brought out another classic in “Don’t Rock The Jukebox”. By this time, many beers had been consumed by the Lexington crowd and let me tell ya, the singular voices around me weren’t much, but boy all together they sure made an awfully beautiful sound.

Somewhere it’s contractually obligated that I have to mention, “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere”, “Chattahoochee” and “Where I Come From”, y’all know they were awesome.

Listen, Alan Jackson has so many incredibly legendary songs, that I could have wrote about too many, in fact, I probably did. If you even remotely enjoy Country Music, you owe it to yourself to see Alan Jackson at least once. He’s one of the Legends that are seemingly a dying breed. He hasn’t turned his back on Traditional Country Music like so many others have. The fact that Mr. Jackson and his traditional style are relevant in the pop-country industry today is a testament to many things. Like his voice, his songwriting, his relatability and his persona. I mean, who’s cooler than Burt Reynolds as the “Bandit”? In my eyes, Alan Jackson is.