BOSTON -- With the colossal curtain fallen and quickly hauled off the stage, Kenny Chesney wasted no time dashing to the edge of the catwalk at Gillette Stadium near Boston on Saturday night (July 23).
Photo Credit: Peter Nash
He spent most of his 22-song set as close to the people as possible, constantly blowing kisses, shaking hands and marveling at the crowd of 50,860 -- the largest gathering of country fans in New England history. His crew spent four days assembling the massive stage.
More electrified than awestruck, Chesney could likely have run to the far corner of the enormous football stadium for every song and still shown no sign of wear. Instead, he and his fellow entertainers -- Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, Pat Green, Uncle Kracker and Blaine Larsen -- made it a point to give shoutouts to every section of fans, even the ones in the nosebleed seats.
After a rather lengthy video introduction, Chesney tapped into the crowd's energy with "Keg in the Closet" and squeezed as many songs as possible into the set list. Highlights included a dirty-dancin' duet with Gretchen Wilson on John Mellencamp's "Hurts So Good" and the Boston footage he incorporated into "Back Where I Come From." You just can't dispute your celebrity status anymore when they let you poke your head out of the scoreboard at Fenway Park.
Above all others, Chesney appeared to be having the best time ever, hesitating only to soak up the scenery. It's one thing to play a stadium on your home turf -- as he did in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2003 -- but quite another to not have a home field advantage. He did, however, namedrop the New England Patriots, which brought quite a roar -- only somewhat more raucous than when he asked, "Is anybody here from Rhode Island?"
Sweaty and grinning, Urban also had no qualms coming face-to-face with fans on the field. Those coming back from the beer line were occasionally stunned to look up and see him on the cusp of a corner platform, about an arm's length away from the aisle. Up close, there is no doubt he is one of the most capable guitarists in country music history -- and many would say the best looking. Pretty much every female radio personality from area country stations gushed over him from the stage, even when they were introducing someone else.
Sexy as he is, one gets the feeling Urban can completely lose himself in music, even lounging at home in slippers and sweatpants. His passionate reading of "Making Memories of Us" was dedicated to the lovers in the audience. The rest of them relished the extra special dose of bitterness he added to his rendering of "You'll Think of Me."
The clear, not-too-hot afternoon really got rolling when Wilson stepped out with "All Jacked Up." The song is brand new, the album is not out for two more months, and there is no video yet, but thousands of people already knew the words. Along with "Holdin' You (Holds Me Together)," she also had couples cuddling to the new song "Man With a Skoal Ring," a character to whom she heartily pledges her devotion.
Green's memorable hit "Wave on Wave" got the audience ready for Wilson's set, and before that, Uncle Kracker and Larsen provided two brief sets of country-inspired music -- one with an edge and the other with a twang.
All in all, the concert lasted seven hours, with another hour (or two) tacked on the end just to get out of the parking lot. Naturally, checking out the tailgaters is always part of the experience at a Chesney concert, whether it's admiring the small truck that doubles as a swimming pool or stumbling across an empty can of pineapple juice, which you'd probably never see at a Montgomery Gentry show.
To get in on the fun, Chesney cruised through the tailgaters on a three-wheeler before the show kicked off. Behold the power of mobile phones, as everybody whipped one out for either a picture or to shriek, "Oh, my God, I just saw Kenny Chesney!" And by the end of the night, his own adrenaline was clearly pumping just as heavily as his fans'.