Chesney Concert Caps All-Day Party in Tampa

At least for one night, Kenny Chesney could have renamed his tour Draft Beer and Buccaneers. The high-energy concert capped a night of revelry on Saturday (Feb. 1) in Tampa, a city still celebrating its Super Bowl victory. In fact, earlier in the day, more than half a million people crowded the streets for the annual, hugely popular Gasparilla parade; no wonder Chesney sold out the arena just a few blocks away.

Much has been made of Chesney’s dazzling new set for his current Margaritas ‘n’ Senoritas tour, created by the team behind the Rolling Stones’ last outing. The numerous stage lights are so bright that if you’re sitting front and center, you’ll be digging around for your Ray-Bans before the second song. An enormous screen, divided into six segments by those roving lights, captures Chesney’s concert as it happens, courtesy of a cameraman crawling around the stage. The live footage is spliced with familiar videos and nostalgic pictures of Chesney, his friends, his family and his hometown of Luttrell, Tenn.

Perhaps a few too many times, a video of a shirtless Chesney pops up, either lounging in a hammock, beached on an island or maybe just a lingering slow crawl up his hunky abs with Chesney giving his best “aw-shucks” to the lens. Does anybody still buy his sheepish line about how he doesn’t consider himself a sex symbol?

Straying from the country-concert rulebook, Chesney didn’t open his show with the well-tread line “How y’all doin’ [insert city here]!” Instead, the audience was treated to snippets from Van Halen’s “Jump” and AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” That pounding pop music doesn’t really match Chesney’s own musical style, but the titles sure do. Most of the crowd — from teens to grandmas — stayed on its feet, jumping and shaking throughout the 18-song set.

After a long black-and-white sequence on the huge monitors above the audience, about how much Kenny Chesney is loved by his fans, the man himself rose through the stage wearing an aqua-colored, sleeveless “All You Need Is Love” T-shirt and bursting into “Live These Songs.” Immediately afterwards, he reeled in any castaway audience members with his huge sing-along hit “Young.”

Rolling through a handful of songs from his album No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, Chesney announced that he’d been long looking forward to playing Tampa again, his first visit to the city as a headliner. Offering short sections of his early hits — “She’s Got It All,” “Fall in Love,” “That’s Why I’m Here,” “I Lost It” — he then revived Conway Twitty ’s “I’d Love to Lay You Down,” crooning to a sweaty, shaky woman in the audience.

Finally, during “The Good Stuff,” Chesney relaxed a bit, cracking a smile now and then. A few hits later, he graciously thanked the crowd and bolted. The screaming for an encore was short-lived, as Chesney promptly returned for an acoustic version of “A Lot of Things Different” before rousing the crowd with “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and a cover of John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane.” And hey, since he’s singing about the Heartland, why not use stock footage of Midwestern farms for the big screen? And how about closing the show with a picture of the waving American flag? That’ll get ‘em on their feet! And it did.

To his credit, Chesney signed numerous autographs from the stage and his appreciation for the crowd’s enthusiasm also rang true. Apparently, the superstar ego trip hasn’t hit yet. Hopefully the positive attitude will hold out longer, as he’s touring incessantly until summer.

Judging from Montgomery Gentry ’s rowdy portion, it’s only a matter of time — or getting that elusive mega-hit — before they’re headlining their own shows. No other singers seem to enjoy themselves on stage more, and when they deliver “My Town,” they mean it. Someone threw Mardi Gras beads up on stage — a remnant from the Gasparilla party earlier in the day — and Eddie Montgomery tossed them over his neck. After their set, the duo vanished from the stage long enough to don bright red Buccaneers jerseys which sent the crowd into a collective conniption fit upon their return. It may be the first time audiences have ever seen Montgomery in anything but a black trench coat. With a backwards baseball cap, bouncing beads and his athletic apparel, it kind of makes you wonder if there’s a market for such a thing as hick-hop.

Kellie Coffey also did a number of things right in her 30-minute opening set. She offered the best material from her debut album such as “Bluer Skies” and “Why Wyoming.” Her pitch rarely wavers. And she shows a game face, considering she must be deeply in debt to her record company. Come on, can a newcomer really afford a seven-piece band and a huge backdrop with her name on it? Not with dull singles like “Whatever It Takes” and “At the End of the Day.” After a curious cover of the Judds ’ “Girls Night Out,” Coffey bowed out with the powerhouse vocals of “When You Lie Next to Me.”

Set List

Kenny Chesney
“Live Those Songs”
“Big Star
“Never Gonna Feel That Way Again”
“No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems”
“What I Need to Do”
“She’s Got It All”
“Fall in Love”
“That’s Why I’m Here”
“I Lost It”
“Back Where I Come From”
“I’d Love to Lay You Down”
“The Good Stuff”
“Don’t Happen Twice”
“How Forever Feels”
“A Lot of Things Different”
“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”
“Jack and Diane”

Montgomery Gentry
“All Night Long”
“Bad for Good”
“Lonely and Gone”
“Daddy Won’t Sell the Farm”
“Cold One Comin’ On”
“Hell Yeah”
“She Couldn’t Change Me”
“My Town”
“Hillbilly Shoes”

Kellie Coffey
“Bluer Skies”
“The Simple Truth”
“Whatever It Takes”
“Why Wyoming”
“Girls Night Out”
“At the End of the Day”
“When You Lie Next to Me”