The No Shoes Nation showed up in full force Wednesday and packed the arena to the brim with cowboy hats and jean skirts. Chesney has always preached about living an easy life full of sunshine and tequila and people certainly came ready for the sermon. It was an electric crowd that simmered with anticipation for the country superstar.
And don’t mistake that fact, either; Kenny Chesney is a bonafide superstar. He has ticked off 25 No. 1 hit singles on the Billboard Hot Country chart and has been selling out multiple headlining tours across America for more than a decade. He is on the Mount Rushmore of arena country acts, right up there with Garth Brooks, Shania Twain and Tim McGraw, and is the only country artist in the top 10 of Billboard’s Top 25 touring acts in the last 25 years.
With such a deep pocket of hits to choose from over his 22-year career, it was no wonder that Chesney decided to play, well, all of them. There were but a handful of songs that had never summitted the charts, or had at least gotten close, and even the deeper tracks were well known by the Chesney faithful.
Toasting the carefree spirit of his crowd, Chesney opened up with the surging “‘Reality,” that perfectly summed up the festivities, with Chesney singing, “We need a rock and roll show in the summer/ To let the music take us away/ Take our minds to a better place.” The song’s power chords, nostalgic undertones and soaring chorus were a great initial hook for the cheering crowd, but as the concert wore on, it was apparent that was the formula to every Kenny Chesney song. While a diverse range of songs was definitely absent from the concert, it is hard to argue with a multi-platinum formula. It is also hard to argue with 7,000 fans singing along.
At its core, the Big Revival Tour is all about the fans. The show opened with a montage that featured Chesney and his merry band of beachcombers and suntanned friends welcoming everyone to the show, which, while cheesy, made everyone feel like part of some larger group of friends (video montages of Chesney on the beach with friends, which sometimes made the concert feel like a live music video, were a big part of the show).
Chesney also took plenty of opportunities to praise his fans and the life they were sharing with him, shouting, “We’re here for your energy!” During a musical interlude of “Beer In Mexico,” he launched into a string of his good-time pirate songs, “Till It’s Gone,” “Summertime,” “Pirate Flag” and “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems.”
The setlist breezed by like a radio playlist, with songs like “I Go Back” and “Young” hitting their sing-along marks. But Chesney offered up a couple surprises for the crowd, the best being a cover of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie.” Bassist Harmoni Kelley McCarty took the reins on the song and her blistering delivery and attitude packed a harder punch than anything else played that night.
After McCarty’s riveting performance, Chesney kept the rock and roll vibes coming in the form of the Red Rocker himself, Sammy Hagar. The Van Halen and Montrose frontman was all smiles and liquor as he sauntered onstage in his usual boardshorts and offered a hefty drink for his comrade. The rocker’s play-hard,-drink-harder mentality certainly fit the Chesney crowd well and he splintered through a fistful of his songs, including “I Can’t Drive 55” and “I’ll Fall In Love Again,” as well as telling a story of a chance encounter with Chesney in Cabo San Lucas a couple weeks ago that led to a full day of drinking.
Hagar’s appearance felt like the happy-go-lucky drunk uncle showing up to the party and taking the party to its next level. Unfortunately, he was not the only drunk uncle to show up. An obviously inebriated Uncle Kracker stumbled and slurred his way through his 2004 duet with Chesney, “When The Sun Goes Down”, and proceeded to play the only other songs people know by him, “Follow Me” and his cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away,” which brought Hagar back to the stage. It was a strange and unnecessary occurrence, but when you throw a 7,000 person party, some wild cards are bound to show up.
Chesney closed his show with the two songs that launched him into multi-platinum territory, “How Forever Feels” and a boot-shaking “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” He bid a long farewell to the crowd that included plenty of hand shaking and signing memorabilia for his devoted fans in the front row.
The fans got what they came for, a spirited party built on the ultimate Kenny Chesney playlist. There is nothing that can top that, until Chesney comes back to Lake Tahoe on another sold-out tour. If so, follow the path of Corona bottles and pirate flags to the party.