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If you were mindful, planned and allocated your concert-spending cash wisely, you will see not one but two legends in Chattanooga this weekend (one perhaps for the last time): George Jones on Friday and Elton John on Saturday.
Elton John’s return to The Roundhouse is covered extensively in the preceding pages. Jones, 81, is visiting the Memorial Auditorium on Friday in the midst of a year-long farewell to live performances dubbed “The Grand Tour.”
If reviews of his concerts last year are any guide, a mix of awe and melancholy is to be expected. His voice is raspier than ever (though some might prefer “aged” by whiskey and cigarettes) and while he is certainly mobile, he is no longer the wild “Possum” of even a decade ago.
If you are in your 20s or 30s and a fan of modern country music—the sort that leans too far in one direction (rock or pop) or the other (retro-twang that lacks the authenticity or validity of its predecessors)—then you owe it to yourself to witness Jones’ last show (at least here—he will conclude the tour later this year in Nashville with a galaxy of stars) and receive a stiff shot of what country music is all about.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the clichés—tales of woe, lost women and much drinking before and after both—but taken in the context of his era, they resonated with the common man Jones and his peers—Ray Price, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, to name a few—have always connected with. “With the blood from my body, I could start my own still,” he sings on his classic, “If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)”—and you believe it. As his admirer and contemporary Waylon Jennings once said, “If we all could sound like we wanted to, we’d all sound like George Jones.”
Almost as famous for his drunken episodes, failure to appear at concerts (he more than earned the nickname “No Show Jones”) and failed marriages—three, most famously his musical peer Tammy Wynette—Jones’ voice and songs touched a deep chord with those who lived life like The Possum (a nickname he probably once despised, but now clearly embraces)—which is to say many, many folks in the South.
Those more familiar with Jones and old-fashioned tear-in-my-beer country music, of which Jones is the high priest, need no introduction. His current show, it is said, delivers a mix of old and more recent hits, featuring a crack band that makes the ride both easy and energetic.
From “White Lightnin’” to the anthemic “Golden Ring” and “She Thinks I Still Care,” to the plaintive beauty of “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” followed by Jones’ favored encore, “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair,” old fans will rejoice; newcomers will be ... well, stunned. Expect the tears and beers to flow freely and a wildly disparate audience.
The uninitiated should prepare themselves for yelps of allegiance, of which there will surely be many. George Jones is the Real Deal, and he shall not pass this way again. If you have planned well, you will be rewarded.
7:30 p.m. •Friday, March 22 • Memorial Auditorium • 399 McCallie Ave • (423) 425-7823 • chattanoogaonstage.com