George Jones Remembered in Marathon Concert

George Strait, Alan Jackson, Blake and Miranda sing Possum’s songs.

It will go down as one of the largest gatherings of country stars, past and present, in Nashville history. Last night’s tribute to George Jones, Playin' Possum! The Final No Show at Music City’s Bridgestone Arena, attracted such names as Garth Brooks, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, Vince Gill, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Eric Church and others. The final tally of talent? More than 100 artists, all of them singing George Jones’ songs, either solo or in collaborations, as George’s wife, Nancy, understandably emotional but looking stunning, watched from the front row.

Kid Rock set the loose tone of the show early on with a barnstorming rendition of “White Lightnin',” complete with George’s signature pops, tics and whistles. The rap-rock-country multitasker was indicative of the concert’s all-are-welcome mentality. Along with country’s familiar faces, the marathon spectacle included R&B icon Sam Moore, classic-rock stalwart Tommy Shaw and thrash-metal band Megadeth, who teamed up with deep-voiced outlaw Jamey Johnson to sing “Wild Irish Rose,” proving that George’s influence knew no genre.

Of course, country entertainers were at the fore. Contemporary stars like Eric Church brought a hush to the crowd with his stark acoustic take on “Choices,” Blake and Miranda wowed with “These Days (I Barely Get By)” and Dierks Bentley proved why he is one of the genre’s most “country” singers with “I Always Get Lucky With You.” Legacy artists like Larry Gatlin were also well-represented, with Larry mesmerizing the audience with “A Good Year for the Roses” (incidentally, the song that Nancy uses as her ringback tone), Lorrie Morgan crooning “A Picture of Me (Without You)” and The Oak Ridge Boys saluting the one-of-a-kind icon with “Same Ole Me.”

Even Grand Ole Opry legends like Jeannie Seely, Jeanne Pruett and Jan Howard performed, in a medley with Emmylou Harris, Janie Fricke and Leona Williams.

The mega-moments came from the usual suspects: Garth and Trisha duetted on the George and Tammy Wynette hit “Take Me,” George Strait handled “The Grand Tour,” before joining Martina McBride on “Golden Ring,” and Alan Jackson interpreted George’s timeless “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Although there were rumors circulating that Dolly Parton was in the building, Alan’s performance would be the last of the night. And, in a way, it had to be, as it was nearly impossible to follow up. George’s dear friend—the pair shared a secret greeting, “Keep it country”—enlisted the crowd to sing the chorus of “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” brought Nancy Jones onstage and, as they walked off arm-in-arm, gave a gentle push to a rocking chair that sat under a lone spotlight in remembrance of George. It was a subtle gesture, but one that carried immeasurable weight.

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