February 5, 2010
Classic Center
Athens, GA


It's hard opening up for someone as singular as George Jones, but the duo of Wilson Fairchild (formerly known as Grandstaff) did it as well as it can be done. Wil and Langdon Reid are the Hee Haw equivalent of The Smothers Brothers. The cousins are sons of Harold and Don Reid of The Statler Brothers and those familial harmonies were definitely passed down. The two balanced comedy with country covers such as Conway Twitty's “I'd Love To Lay You Down” and The Statler's “Flowers On The Wall”. A show ending parody of the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton hit “Islands In The Stream” was even sillier than it sounds, but set the mood for the family friendly evening ahead.

Country music's definitive artist George Jones is 78-years old now. He's been having hits for more than 50 years and yet he's still out on the road thrilling thousands every night. His voice is not as strong as it once was, but his demeanor and spirit haven't diminished in the slightest.

Opening the show with his first hit, 1955's “Why Baby Why”, Mr. Jones took the crowd through “The Grand Tour” of his career and even some sidetracks into his personal life. “Choices” featured footage of one of his legendary drunken arrests, which was projected on a screen behind him.

Early in the set, George complained of side effects from his blood pressure medication, but as the show wound on, George was more and more comfortable, joking openly about his trials and tribulations as well as his triumphs. By the end of the night, he was dancing and laughing.

The classic country material came fast and furious. “The Race Is On”, “A Picture Of Me Without You”, “I Always Get Lucky With You”, “The Corvette Song” and “Once You've Had The Best” were all songs that revved up the audience. An emotionally moving “Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes” made it clear that somehow, George Jones is one of the last standing of country music's greatest legends.

The Jones Boys ably provided the musical chops and showmanship to accentuate the depth of the songs, but vocalist Brittany Allyn was the standout as she took up Tammy Wynette's part on “Golden Ring”. She joked with Mr. Jones about his inability to remember certain band members' names and added, "Well, as long as you don't forget the words, we'll be alright". A flurry of massive hits followed. “White Lightning”, “The Window Up Above”, “The Grand Tour” and “She Thinks I Still Care” were all, obviously, well-received, but nothing matched the tear-jerking power of “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, which has regularly been voted the greatest country song of all time.

To close out the night, the energy was amped up to its limit for “I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair”. The sold out crowd was on its feet in joy and appreciation. What a special treat it was to be able to see and hear such an amazing artist. On the way out, there was a rush on the merchandising tables as shirts bearing “I saw No Show Jones” were flying out of the boxes.

Chris McKay /