Jonathan Jackson Shines in Nashville Tour

Actor-Singer Goes From Bar-Back to Frontman

CHICAGO — I went into the Nashville concert on Tuesday night (May 5) thinking it would be a stage full of actors acting like singers.

Twenty-five songs later, I realized maybe it’s the other way around.

I mean, yes, this cast of ABC’s hit series can act. That’s obvious every Wednesday night when I get thoroughly caught up in Deacon’s wait for a liver transplant, Will’s struggle with his homosexuality and Avery’s devotion to Juliette, her music and their baby.

And, sure, I knew they could sing. But after the two-hour show at Chicago’s Rosemont Theatre, it’s crystal clear that this group of seven can entertain every bit as well as the characters they play. Maybe better.

Especially Jonathan Jackson, who made a rare concert appearance along with Clare Bowen, Chris Carmack, Charles Esten, Aubrey Peeples, the duo of Lennon and Maisy Stella and a five-piece backing band.

When Jackson sat down at the grand piano to play his “How You Learn to Live Alone,” I forgot that he was Avery, the former bar-back, and let myself get to know Jackson, the singer. And then I fell in love with the ballad. The sold-out crowd was on their feet for that one, along with his “Love Rescue Me” and the banjo-heavy “Borrow My Heart,” which he performed with Bowen.

Esten played the part of the show’s crowd pleaser, telling fans toward the end of the show — right before he played “He Ain’t Me” — “You paid a lot of money for those seats, but that don’t mean you gotta use ’em.”

All of the singers took little jabs at their characters throughout the night, too.

Peeples said of Layla, “I feel like Layla has been hated for a very long time. But the new Layla has gotten more evil and manipulative. And she and I don’t share the same experiences. Like, I’ve never been married to a gay cowboy.”

Esten said of Deacon, “That’s pretty much all I ever do: I’m trying to get Rayna.”

Jackson said of Avery, “A while ago, before Avery became a good guy, he had a wonderful girl in his life that he let go.”

Other standouts from the show were Lennon and Maisy’s cover songs, like the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” and Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” Carmack’s self-penned “Being Alone,” Bowen’s hit from the TV show’s dark side, “Black Roses,” and the full-cast show closer “A Life That’s Good.”