George Jones played a nearly soldout show at Tucson Music Hall in February 2006. It was his last Tucson appearance.
Black-and-white photographs flashed on a large screen behind country legend George Jones Tuesday night.
As he sang about choices he's made in his long and notorious career, pictures showed Jones as a lanky young man, guitar slung from his shoulder.
"I've had choices / Since the day that I was born / There were voices / That told me right from wrong."
The photographs danced through a lifetime, from the young man of yesterday full of promise to the graying man of today whose choices have left him with some regrets but no less promise.
On Tuesday night before a half-full Tucson Music Hall, Jones put those regrets aside and let his music speak to the promise he has left.
He packed a lot of highlights into two short hours, kicking the evening off with his early hit, 1955's "Why Baby Why," and sailing right through to one of his newest hits, 2002's mournful Vietnam Wall ode "50,000 Names."
His famously smooth baritone was a little thin at times — he sounded like he was trying too hard to keep tempo to the ditty "The Race Is On," and his voice nearly faded away at one point in the middle of "I Always Get Lucky With You."
But just as you were ready to excuse him his weaknesses, write it off as a byproduct of his 74 years of hard living, Jones would take a swig of his own bottled White Lightning Tennessee spring water and the crispness of his voice would return.
When he sang about "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," with heart-tugging pictures of the late Johnny and June Carter Cash and Waylon Jennings flashing bigger than life on the screen behind him, there wasn't a note out of place, a strain to be heard.
Jones filled the night with a few frolicking ditties, including "The One I Loved Back Then (the Corvette Song)" and "Sinners & Saints." But most of the night was devoted to his signature ballads — the bread and butter of a career that has spanned more than 160 hit singles over five-plus decades.
With the help of backup singer Sheri Smith, Jones covered a few of the duets he recorded with his late ex-wife, Tammy Wynette, including "Take Me" and "Near You." Smith also proved a formidable substitute for Dolly Parton on a duet of the somber, almost biographical "Blues Man," off Jones' latest album, "Hits I Missed . . . And One I Didn't."
While the pair sang, the song's video featuring Parton played out of time on the screen; what Jones and Smith were singing live didn't match what Jones and Parton sang in the video. The stage tech tried to slow the video to catch up with Jones, but it proved to be an annoying distraction.
But there was nothing that could distract the audience of just under 1,200 from Jones and his stellar band when he sang "He Stopped Loving Her Today" — that was the "And One I Didn't" off "Hits."
There was an echo in the Music Hall as the crowd sang along:
"He stopped loving her today /They placed a wreath upon his door / And soon they'll carry him away / He stopped loving her today."
When he finished, pockets of fans bolted to their feet until about half of the half-filled hall was standing. Jones nodded, then went right into another song.
● George Jones in concert Tuesday at Tucson Music Hall.