Jake Owen at Reliant Stadium, 3/12/2014
Jake Owen gave up professional golf for country music. Wonder how much that decision weighed on him.
Not much, probably. No idea what kind of golfer he was, but Owen has such an easy charisma and magnetic orientation towards audiences -- most of all of the young female variety, like the ladies holding up "Jake Owen Prom?" signs Wednesday -- that it's hard to imagine him doing anything else.
He also looks an awful damn lot like Luke Wilson, so Old School flashbacks were not uncommon throughout his set before 68,008 paid customers Wednesday night, his second straight RodeoHouston appeareance. Earlier Wednesday, one of the rodeo officials who works with us press types mentioned her concern that Owen might not stay onstage long enough to be photographed. He barely did, but by "Beachin'" he was already running toward the seats. And the man does take a good selfie.
The set was dominated by breezy, good-time tunes that were sometimes shadowed with darker accents. Power ballad "Ghost Town" is a better haunted-by-her memory song than most you'll hear on the radio these days, and the rockers were all strong, from harmonica-heavy opener "Days of Gold" (the title track of his 2013 album) to seduction-by-vinyl guide "1972," which came with a litany of classic-rock acts popular in that year; to cranking up the Georgia Satellites on "Yeehaw" and equating adult gymnatics with bull riding to the AC/DC stomp of closer "8 Second Ride." Has anyone ever thought of that before?
Perhaps inevitably, Owen turned the mellow strumalong "Pass a Beer" into Sublime's "What I Got," and during a medley of his early hits, it was easy to hear how much Alabama had soaked through. Overall it went down as smooth and satisfying and disposable as your average 12-oz. longneck. (Burp.)
Owen did not pause for reflection very often except late in the set, on the acoustic ballad "The Journey of Your Life," which gets a pass from its maudlin sentimentality because it's about his recently cancer-free dad. If you can even call it that, the sentimentality of his big hit that followed, 2012's "The One That Got Away," was a lot more upbeat. But then letting someone slip through your fingers probably is a lot easier to take when it's all rocked out like Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' "Refugee."
Right now it seems like Owen's personality is more than enough for him enter to the upper echelon of male country singers, moreso than his actual material. But he also gave enough evidence he might come around sooner than later. After all, if Matthew McConaughey can win an Oscar...
Personal Bias: Loved Tin Cup.
The Crowd: Young, white and suburban. Lots of boots-and-sundress combos despite the chill in the air.
Overheard In the Crowd: "She leaves stuff on that table for three weeks. I leave it on there for a day and it's trash."
Random Notebook Dump: One of the cowboys rode a bull named Outstanding Warrant. The bull got the better end of that deal.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS