"If trouble don't kill me, Lord, I'll live a long time." It seems so simple. But just ask George Jones -- it's anything but. Seeking to avoid even the slightest perception of "trouble," Jones went out of his way to reassure the sellout crowd that the strongest thing passing his lips was his trusty "sprang water." Not so for openers and "Trouble" authors the Gourds, who lamented "I spent my whole damn wad on food and pot," while the KVETted, Deere-driving throng tried studiously to listen the other direction. One day, God willing, my grandchildren will hear about the halcyon days of "Pine Island Bayou" and "County Orange," but this night there were God knows how many Coors Light drinkers soon to be screaming "Nebraska sucks" to deal with. Plus one wily old Possum. Mr. No Show was front and center in a crisp silver blazer and blue-blocker shades, opening with "High-Tech Redneck" just in case anyone thought they had paid $35 to see that other Jones boy, Howard. And things only got better. "The Race Is On" was a little wobbly, as the country legend's voice hadn't completed its warmup laps, but by "Bartender's Blues," it was as robust and full-bodied as a pint of Guinness. After the animated fiddle breakdown "Black Mountain Rag," Jones used a pair of new songs to demonstrate that his outlook may have changed, but his subject matter hasn't. "Choices" maps out his life of "livin' and dyin' by the choices I made," while "Sinners and Saints" reminded the crowd "one is forgiven and the other one ain't." "A Picture of Me Without You" brought the night's first real throat-catching moment, quickly leavened by Jones' tip of the cap to Jimmy Buffett on "Something to Drink About." ("The girls like to take the men home and sing it to 'em theyselves," he remarked.) The 16-ounce Bud Lights were hoisted high in the sky for the operatic ode to passing heroes, "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," before Jones again reached into the wayback machine and dialed up a clip-clopping rendition of Johnny Horton's "One Woman Man." After another "sprang water" pause and a gently lolling "Tennessee Whiskey," it was medley time, as Jones managed to cram parts of "I'll Share My World With You," "The Window Up Above," "Walk Through This World With Me," "White Lightnin'," and "She Thinks I Still Care" into about six minutes. (Condensed Country Classics! Coming soon to a Barnes & Noble near you!) If the salivating audience had any shit left, they lost it as the opening strains of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" sounded. But they ain't hangin' no wreath on Jones' door yet, because as he reminded the ecstatic crowd during the closer "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair," "I still got neon in my veins." That and plenty of sprang water should keep Jones alive and out of trouble long enough for him to fulfill his pledge "we're gonna come back more often" many times over.
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