Reporting Kurt Wolff
All this week, Radio.com is taking a Country Jet Set Tour of the American South, traveling to seven cities to see seven different artists in seven consecutive days. And this isn’t any ordinary road trip either, as we’re traveling by private jet! Below is our latest installment. Stay tuned for daily updates.
Day Four: Memphis, Tennessee
Graceland, Sun and Stax Records, and the blues and beer joints on Beale Street may be chief attractions for visitors to Memphis, but Thursday night (Oct. 24) belonged to Jason Aldean. That night, Georgia singer brought his powerhouse Night Train Tour to the FedEx Forum, in the heart of the Tennessee city’s downtown. And as has been typical of his live shows, he threw down hard and gave the crowd a perfect excuse to cut loose.
The Memphis date was one of his final shows of the year (his concert schedule picks back up in January). And as he told Radio.com during an interview before the show, he’s really looking forward to taking a break.
“It’s been a good year, but we’re looking forward to a couple months off,” Aldean said. He laughed a bit, because while it’s been not just “good” but a truly stellar year for the Georgia artist–more hit singles, playing bigger venues than ever before, such as Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field–it’s also been a long one.
“It’s kind of hard to sit there and let it sink in when you’re constantly playing shows and working,” Aldean says, regarding what he’s accomplished this year. “You don’t have time to reflect on it a whole lot. For me, these next couple months is a time when I have a lot of down time to sit down and take it all in, and look back and realize how big a year it’s been.”
“The cool thing about the DVD is being able to go back and look at some of that stuff, and be able to enjoy it a little bit, in a different light.”
The DVD he’s referring to is Night Train To Georgia, a 90-minute concert DVD he just released. Most of the footage comes from his show this past spring at the University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, where he played in front of 60,000 people.
“I’m always pretty involved in anything that has to do with our live show,” Aldean said. “At the same time I think it’s important to surround yourself with people that you trust. Guys like Shaun Silva, who produced the DVD–knowing that he’s going to capture things in a cool way.”
But as he also pointed out, putting the DVD together “was like a two year process” from the point when he and his team started talking about it conceptually, “figuring out how we wanted it to look and sound as far as songs go.” This included putting together the setlist for the Sanford show. “At the time, ‘Night Train’ wasn’t even a single. Those are things we put in the show. ‘When She Says Baby,’ which is going to be the next single, we didn’t know that. We had those songs in the show because we thought there was a chance. Little things like that, so that now, the DVD comes out, we still have songs like ‘Night Train’ and ‘Baby’ that are in there.”
The fact that this particular Night Train Tour stop was in Memphis–home of iconic labels like Stax and Sun, the city that produced legendary recordings by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding and of course Elvis Presley–was certainly on Aldean’s mind, too.
“I’ve always been a big Elvis fan,” Aldean said. “He was the biggest star on the planet in the day. He’s been dead for 36 years and–we were just out in Vegas–you still got guys walking around dressed up as Elvis. In 36 years, nobody’s going to be dressing up like me,” Aldean laughed, “I can promise you that.”
But the kitsch associated with Elvis impersonators, Aldean noted, is really a mark of something deeper. “That’s just a sign of somebody that was really great. I think [Elvis's] music and his style is still influencing people. And obviously, Sun Records–I mean, Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and all those guys, that just changed the shape of music in general.”
“So I look at Memphis a lot like I look at Georgia where I’m from, [where] we had Capricorn Records, the Allman Brothers. It’s a cool piece of history that changed the shape of music in all formats, not just rock and roll. You still see people singing songs like [Jerry Lee's] ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and [Elvis's] ‘Suspicious Minds.’ We used to play that in our show.”
“Suspicious Minds” didn’t make it into the set list on Thursdays’ show in Memphis, but it was a song Aldean said he played in his club days. “Even after I had my [record] deal, man, we would come out and play songs like that.”
“Elvis died the years I was born . So like I said, 36 years ago–that’s how I know. My mom went to see him in concert, so I listened to all her stories. It’s cool that someone who’s been dead that long still has an impact on music.”
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