Kenny Chesney Takes Surprise Detour Through CMA Festival

Wynonna, Yearwood, Adkins, Clark, Currington, Aldean Deliver at Friday Concert

He’s unquestionably living in fast forward, but Kenny Chesney still can’t turn down a great summertime gig. Although he appeared live on Good Morning America in New York earlier in the day, Chesney and his band managed to squeeze in three up-tempo songs at Friday night’s (June 9) concert at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville.

All the other performers received blathering introductions from baffled daytime soap stars, but at 10:40 p.m., the audience only heard these booming words: “Ladies and gentlemen, Kenny Chesney!” And suddenly, there he was, blowing kisses and singing “Live Those Songs.” Two tunes later, he disappeared, but Chesney’s mere presence served as a reminder that surprises still exist at the four-day festival.

Wynonna wound up with the thankless task of following Chesney’s set, but she made it work with a positive spirit and a big smile. (Because of the delicate egos in show business, very few artists would willingly follow the biggest name in country music, especially without a paycheck, so special credit must go to Wy.) Sure, a couple of hundred people headed toward the exit at LP Field, but they missed a solid, entertaining show of Judds classics (“Mama, He’s Crazy,” “Why Not Me” and “Grandpa”), a sampling of her solo hits (“Tell Me Why” and “No One Else on Earth”) and knockout versions of Etta James’ “At Last” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”

Wynonna said she’s been coming to Fan Fair (the event’s name before it changed to the CMA Music Festival) since 1984 “by the grace of God and the love of the fans.” During their generous sets, Terri Clark and Trisha Yearwood also made it a point to praise the loyalty of the country audience, as well they should. They’ve both been around for more than a decade now, yet they keep coming back to the festival. Not that they’re heritage acts by any means, but both women still can belt out the old hits as well as their more recent material even when the microphones and monitors aren’t exactly cooperating. (Some things never change.) Yearwood even brought out her diva hand and diva wail on “Wrong Side of Memphis.” You’re damn right she’s still got it.

Fans devoted to contemporary country radio certainly heard a few favorites from the guys, too. Jason Aldean offered “Why” and “Hicktown,” Billy Currington (a fine singer who’s finally starting to come into his own) signed off with “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right,” and Montgomery Gentry had the joint jumping with “Hell Yeah” and “My Town.”

Looking ahead to his upcoming album, Trace Adkins performed a handful of new songs, including “Swing” (baseball terminology as pick-up lines), “Dangerous Man” (about loving your woman) and “Ladies Love Country Boys (a radio single if ever there was one). And as expected, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” sounded absolutely booty-ful.