Homecoming weekend at the Alpharetta amphitheater




ALPHARETTA - Two hometown acts gone big made appearances last weekend at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park. Newnan-raised country superstar Alan Jackson and popular hard rock band the Black Crowes each headlined shows Oct. 4 and 5, drawing near sellout crowds to hear the distinctively different genres of music.

Jackson has been a mainstay on the Nashville scene for nearly two decades, and has clearly picked up a few fans along the way. The amphitheater was packed to the gills to hear him belt out his signature hits like “Livin’ on Love” and “She’s Gone Country.” Fittingly enough, he was able to play one of his biggest songs, “Chattahoochee,” about growing up and spending rowdy weekends on the river, just a few miles from the river itself.

Young, up-and-coming country acts Ashton Shepherd and Blake Shelton opened the show, getting the raucous crowd revved up with their songs of drinking and having good times.

Sunday night was a completely different vibe than the jean shorts and ten gallon hat set the night before. The Crowes have been mainstays on the jam band scene for years, and their crowd featured hippies young and old alike there to relive the spirit of the 60s.

But it wasn’t just a partisan crowd there, as many in the audience seemed to be Deadheads, judging by the number of tie dyes featuring the trademark skulls and dancing bears, which were also very prominent. They were there no doubt to hear former Dead bassist Phil Lesh play in his popular touring act, Phil Lesh and Friends. Phil – as many fans simply refer to him – has been doing these tours ever since the great Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995.

Each tour features a different lineup of stars on the jam band scene, and past iterations have had members of the Allman Brothers, Phish and Widespread Panic join him on stage. This time, he was once again flanked by talented players, including young guitarist and singer Jackie Greene and the axe-man to the stars Larry Campbell, who has played in the touring bands of Bob Dylan and The Band’s Levon Helm, among others.

The Friends poured out a lengthy set of covers and Dead originals, including the slow ballad “Sugaree” with Crowes singer Chris Robinson on stage to help out.

The set was finished with a raucous medley of “Help on the Way” into the instrumental “Slipknot!” then the classic “Franklin’s Tower,” a medley that was popular at many a Dead show.

After a lengthy set break, the Crowes took to the stage to play in what Robinson called a “hometown extravaganza.” The band has had an evolving lineup over the years, but it has always centered around Robinson and his brother Rich on guitar and occasional vocals.

This time they brought in noted slide guitar player Luther Dickinson to give them that dual lead-guitar sound so typical of many a Southern rock band.

All night the songs eclipsed the 10 minute mark with jam after lengthy jam before the Crowes brought it all to a conclusion with, fittingly, The Band’s “The Night They Drove Dixie Down.”

More photos of each show are available at www.northfulton.com.

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