George Jones February 10, 2006
Classic Country with George Jones
By Glen Creason
No need to quibble on this one, no probably needed to qualify the statement of fact. The Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts was privileged to present the venerable George Jones on Friday evening, most certainly the greatest Country and Western singer of all-time. You can have your current handsome cowboy song-slingers and runway model songstresses with a drawl but when you hear “the Possum” sing, he defines the musical form from the top of his starched hairdo to the tip of his pointy-toed boots. At seventy-four full years and a staggering 164 hit records Jones doesn’t need to utter a note to stand at the C&W mountaintop, he’s been there for years. While not everyone loves Country music, time will place this gentleman in the pantheon of American icons of the performing arts. Then again, if he heard himself described that way he probably would reach for his shotgun but he is a national treasure, like it or not.
At Cerritos, the Possum’s fans were out in force and they are nothing but hard-core. It was my luck, for the second consecutive Jones show, to sit behind the biggest cowboy hat in the county but dang it the guy wearing it loved George. In truth, the show was far from perfect and the old Possum showed a little sputter coming out of the gate with “Why Baby Why” and “Once You’ve Had the Best” that were comparatively thin and lacking the spectacular, emotional navigation of “the voice.” Overall, he does not have the strength in his pipes to achieve the incredible elasticity and depth he once had due to the medicine he’s forced to take as a price for his wilder days. Jones makes no bones about the crooked path he has trod and sang a few of those trademarks from back when he wiped his brow with the devil’s kerchief including “Bartender’s Blues,” “Sinners and Saints” and the deeply affecting “Choices” that gave serious goose bumps. He wisely gave the stage over the superb fiddler Jim Buchanan several times to catch his breath and “Black Mountain Rag,” “Blackberry Blossom,” and “Fire on the Mountain” was much more than filler. The great old ballads owned by George Jones mesmerized the full house such as “I’ve Always Been Lucky With You,” “”A Picture of Me Without You,” and a sterling silver “I’m Not Ready Yet” that stirred the echoes of greatness. There was a forgotten line or two along the way and even one comical coughing start and stop in his salute to wife Nancy on “I’m a One Woman Man.” However, I am comparing him to the greatest country singer ever and as the show progressed the Possum gained momentum climbing toward his accustomed heights. Duets he once performed with Tammy Wynette were beautifully executed by Sheri Copeland especially “Take Me,” “Golden Ring” and proof of the Possum’s current stature with a powerhouse “Blues Man” that ventured beyond his accustomed genre.
The fans begged for and got “White Lightening,” “From a Window Up Above,” “the Grand Tour” “She Still Thinks I Care” and probably the greatest C&W song ever “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” However, the concert’s finest moments came on two mixed media performances, one the highly emotional “50,000 Names” about the Vietnam Veterans Wall and the increasingly poignant “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” that brought to mind a similar question about the white haired man at center stage. Despite his protestations that “I Don’t Need No Rocking Chair” the Cerritos crowd should count themselves lucky to have seen the living legend one more precious time.