The weight of time is so deceptive.
Moments pass by us, light as air and gone in the space of a breath, but they accumulate into years, great groaning mountains of minutes.
It seems impossible time can be simultaneously fleeting and permanent, but watching Alan Jackson mark 25 years in the music business Friday at Verizon Theatre was to witness vivid proof of that fact.
Such a sensation was further reinforced by how profoundly Jackson is out of step with the here and now, particularly considering Nashville’s persistent, baffling fixation on blow-dried, perma-tanned men incapable of singing about much beyond women, cars and booze. (The almost-quaint clips from his videos, played on screens behind him and his eight-piece band, provided another stark reminder of time’s swift advance and Music City’s profound devolution.)
But his durable, melodic and straightforward songs will outlast anything regurgitated by the current crop of musicians holding sway, not least because the bulk of Jackson’s catalog concerns itself with, as the man himself explained Friday, “life and love and drinking and dancing.”
The enduring quality of the 56-year-old Georgia native’s work — Don’t Rock the Jukebox and Chattahoochee, or I Don’t Even Know Your Name and Here in the Real World — allows it sound as relevant in 2015 as it did in 1989 or 1992.
“I’ve had more hits on the radio than I could ever remember, sold more records than I could imagine,” Jackson remarked midway through his expansive set.
It wasn’t a boast, so much as a sort of bemused gratitude to the faithful assembled before him, holding posters aloft, screaming praise and straining to catch the T-shirts he blithely tossed into the crowd.
And while a Good Time was foremost on the minds of those piled into the nearly full Verizon Theatre, Jackson also showcased his sensitive side, reeling off one poignant hit after another: Drive; Small Town Southern Man and his 9/11 anthem, Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).
In those moments, Jackson revealed the true depths of his craftsmanship.
Like a scalpel-wielding surgeon and befitting his standing as one of Nashville’s most successful songwriters, Jackson understands the inherent pull of nostalgia, the way it opens up even the most curmudgeonly to feeling real emotion. With a few chords and a deft phrase or two, Jackson can do in three minutes what some artists never accomplish in entire careers.
It’s that facility with speaking plainly about the elemental qualities of life — “Remember when I was young and so were you,” he sang in his still-rich baritone Friday — which helps Jackson transcend the trends and elevates him to a place Nashville seems depressingly disinterested in nowadays.
No one person can hold back the years — the weight just becomes too much to bear.
But someone like Alan Jackson, whose music simply seems as if it has always existed, can slip free from time’s surprising burdens, reminding us all, however briefly, of memory’s rejuvenating glow.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713