Alan Jackson: Everett Collection
Nicholas Fonseca
February 19, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

What in the name of Joey Ramone was going on at Manhattan’s suitably sleazy club CBGB Feb. 6? A rowdy mix of yuppies, firemen, Stetson-lidded cowgirls, and, yes, a few punks gathered to hear unlikely headliner Alan Jackson. ”I’ve played some places that make this look real nice!” joked the country superstar. ”But this is where my music was meant to be heard.” Especially his latest hit, ”Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” the unofficial post?9/11 anthem. The ballad (featured on Jackson’s ”Drive,” which knocked Creed from atop the charts) hushed the crowd, blocks from ground zero. ”People are still listening to the song and hearing things they didn’t hear before,” says RCA exec Joe Galante. ”That’s the emotion he put into it.” Galante, who says Jackson will perform the song on Feb. 27’s Grammy Awards, gives the CBGB gig a rave: ”It was a brilliant move to take that risk.”

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