The last time I was at Celebrity Theatre, I saw country legend Loretta Lynn do most of her set by request, politely declining to sing the songs with lyrics she was fuzzy on. George "No Show" Jones, one of a handful of living musicians who can claim a place near Lynn in the pantheon of Nashville legends, did her one better last night, singing his set with with a little help from two teleprompters scrolling his lyrics karaoke-style.
It's just one of the ways the notoriously hard-partying icon has streamlined the process of being An American Treasure. Before the show, we were offered the chance to interview Jones by e-mail, asking questions he and his secretary would answer. Not a bad system for everyone involved, really, since reporters hate transcribing almost as much as secretaries like copy/pasting from a list of pre-prepared answers to questions Jones has been hearing for the majority of his 77 years. I honestly almost went for it.
Here's the thing: such antics, unforgivable by lesser acts, still seem like great charities from the man who sang "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Hey, not everyone can bust their ass like Willie Nelson, and if George Jones wants to play his shows on a Hawaiian shirt, sacks and boots, as he and his band did at Celebrity, I ain't complaining. It's George fucking Jones. I just feel lucky to see him, even if, as he said, he was suffering from throat problems.
Starting off with "Why Baby Why," the former husband of Tammy Wynette needed a little time to loosen his legendary vocal chords. By "Choices," and "I Always Get Lucky With You" he had hit his stride.
After a short speech about the unfortunate trend toward positive, lovey-dovey songs on country radio, Jones slipped in to "The Race Is On" with the crowd singing along so loud it was hard to hear Jones comparatively-softer vocals. Brief renditions of "She Thinks I Still Care" and "White Lightening" followed. Though we didn't hear Jones' unofficial anthem, "No Show Jones," the closer, "I Don't Need No Rocking Chair" got the crowd on it's feet one last time.
Jones has played plenty of better shows, I'm sure, but he's also played plenty of worse. Like I said, I just feel lucky to have stood in the same room with such a legend.Critic's Notebook:
By the Way: That lawn-mower booze story is pretty classic.