Alan Jackson. Juice file photo.
Alan Jackson closes out the Iowa State Fair
Published on August 19th, 2013 | by Joe Lawler
The Iowa State Fair ended with a twang, not a whimper as Alan Jackson and Gary Allan closed out the Grandstand to 9,628 fans Sunday night.
“I think we’ve played this fair about 10 times over my career,” Jackson told the crowd early in his set. “It’s one of the biggest fairs in the country.”
Iowans know that, but it’s nice to have an outsider’s perspective.
As the show was kicking off, a video screen ran through Jackson’s 35 No. 1 hits, spanning his 30 year career. Jackson squeezed as many of them as he could into his 90 minute set.
Jackson kicked off his set with “Gone Country,” heading right into “I Don’t Even Know Your Name” (complete with a video appearance by Jeff Foxworthy). Jackson’s cover of “Summertime Blues” and “Small Town Southern Man” followed.
Those opening songs demonstrate Jackson’s range, but also an “all over the map” feel to the concert. That was best/most awkwardly demonstrated later in his set when he went from the sentimental “Drive” about his father to the Sept. 11 anthem “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).” Those fit together, but from there he went right into the rocking “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” followed by “Here In the Real World.” Switching those last two songs around would have improved the flow and made the somber to partying transition less jarring.
The tunes in Jackson’s set were more varied than the full on party of Toby Keith a few nights before, but Jackson proved he’s not immune from the Jimmy Buffettization of country either. “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” Jackson’s party hit with Buffett, drew a huge response and featured a video appearance by the pirate. Jackson discussed Zac Brown before his performance of the duo’s hit “As She’s Walking Away,” but guitarist Monty Parkey stood in for Brown on vocals. However, Parkey did put on Brown’s trademark knit cap while playing the song.
Gary Allan kicked off the evening with a set that was light on chit chat but packed with music. At the end of his performance Allan hit the crowd with the heavy combo of “Bones” and “Man of Me” featuring guitar riffs that came close to metal. It was an intense performance, but he eased things up with his final song, “Watching Airplanes.”
During “Where I Come From,” footage from around Des Moines and the Fair played on the big screen. Whoever shot the material got a good amount of coverage, including footage of Zombie Burger, Lucky Monkey, Americana, The Gas Lamp, The Home Plate Diner and more. Iowa and Iowa State logos also got a lot of screen time, with Hawkeye and Cyclone fans trying to one up each other with screams with each appearance.
After that Jackson returned for an encore that consisted of an extended version of “Mercury Blues.” While his band jammed Jackson autographed concert tickets hats and even a boot or two. It was a late night, with the concert ending after 11 p.m., but on the last night of the fair no one seemed too concerned about the coming Monday morning.