Kenny Chesney only performed one concert this year -- this weekend's Flora-Bama-Jama -- but it proved to be the party of the summer.
Chesney brought his hits to the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge in Pensacola on Saturday, attracting more than 40,000 people -- some coming from as far away as Oregon and Arizona -- for the free concert on the Gulf of Mexico.
The crowd started singing along with Chesney on the opener "Flora-Bama" and didn’t stop throughout the 32-song set. Hearing the crowd's response definitely whetted Chesney’s appetite to hit the stage again next year. "Man, when those people kicked in and started singing 'Flora-Bama' back to me, that just hit me in the heart,” said Chesney in a statement. "A year without touring takes me away from that and those fans, whether they know it or not, inspire me. So having spent the year writing and recording, that was like plugging into the source."
The set list included many of the singer's biggest hits, including "Don't Happen Twice" and the award-winning "You and Tequila." He also had a surprise for the crowd, with '90s hitmaker (and frequent co-writer) David Lee Murphy making an appearance. The two traded verses on Murphy's hits "Dust on the Bottle" and "Party Crowd," both radio staples since their release in 1995. "Since David Lee wrote 'Flora-Bama' with me, I know he knows about the heart and the soul of the people down here, how much they love music and love life," Chesney said of Murphy’s appearance.
Setting up a stadium stage on a beach was definitely a huge undertaking for Chesney and crew. Fans started showing up a day before the concert, waiting overnight to enter the beach for the show. He credits his fans and crew for making the evening one he will never forget.
"We had the No Shoes Navy, the No Shoes Nation, people who aren't afraid to get out there and live and just experience the moment. The fact that we could announce this show two weeks ago, build it and have that kind of response to a crazy notion I had -- one that started out with playing a little keg show in the upstairs of the club and turned into a great big show on the beach? It says a lot about my team, the Flora-Bama's John McInnis and Cameron Rice and especially the people who came from all over to be here with us."
The concert was filmed for a TV special, but that isn't the only project that Chesney has coming down the line. His fifteenth studio album, The Big Revival, will hit stores on Sept. 23. The set's first single, "American Kids," is currently No. 3 on the Hot Country Songs chart. After taking the year off to work on the music, he's ready for people to hear what he’s been up to.
"I took the time to find a creative zone where I could go new places, write songs that capture something real in a fresh way," Chesney tells Billboard. "'American Kids' is unlike anything I've heard, and it is the tip of what this album does."