Kenny Chesney / May 18, 2007 / Columbia, Mo. (Mizzou Arena)
It's no secret why small-town Midwesterners love Kenny Chesney. For one, they've all at some point stored kegs in closets, drank wine out of Dixie cups and been sexually aroused by something manufactuIt's no secret why small-town Midwesterners love Kenny Chesney. For one, they've all at some point stored kegs in closets, drank wine out of Dixie cups and been sexually aroused by something manufactured at John Deere. Additionally, they like to have a damn good time, and Chesney has mastered this market with a combination of all-American, down-home attitude and over-the-top, mega party-style live shows.
So as Chesney embarked on his current Flip Flop Summer Tour, it was no surprise to see him rolling through Columbia, Mo., for the third year in a row. His fans there relate to and adore him; they want nothing more than to put back a few beers with him, or at least in his honor in the parking lot before the show. And in turn Chesney delivers exactly what his audience expects, which is why he also won his third straight ACM Entertainer of the Year award mere days before this tour stop.
To help establish the beach vibe before Chesney took the stage, beach balls and T-shirts were tossed out into the audience while ridiculous faux-"Pirates of the Caribbean"-themed Cruzan Rum ads played on screens in the background.
Clad in tight jeans, a powder blue muscle tank and cowboy hat, Chesney started out with the carefree "Beer in Mexico" and scattered several other island getaway, Jimmy Buffett-style tunes such as "Summertime," "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" and the steel drum-backed "When the Sun Goes Down" throughout the set to maintain the aura of summer fun.
Although nearly every Chesney song seemed an apparent fan favorite, he really got the crowd moving with lively hits such as "Young," "Don't Happen Twice," "Forever Feels," which featured an impressive fiddle breakdown at the end, and the set closing "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy."
The audience of course soaked up every word of his slow numbers, as well, namely "The Good Stuff," "Back Where I Come From" and "You Save Me." His single-song encore was also a slow one, "There Goes My Life," which, though pretty, didn't seem to wrap up the high-energy show appropriately. But Chesney hung around stage after the song to blow more kisses, shake more hands and sign a few autographs, which is exactly the kind of personal interaction needed to ensure a sold-out crowd again next year.
Opening for Chesney was country/pop duo Sugarland. After lead singer Jennifer Nettles warmed up her voice to the chorus of Pearl Jam's "Better Man," the band kicked off the set with the hook-friendly "Settlin'" and rolled through such hits as "Want To" and "Just Might" off its latest release, "Enjoy the Ride," and "Baby Girl" and "Something More" from 2004's "Twice the Speed of Life."
Nettles has a commanding stage presence, and her powerful vocals put her among the top female country singers out there today. She and bandmate Kristian Bush (a man, despite what that spelling may have you believe) have a magnetic chemistry onstage, which was particularly evident when Bush stepped in for Jon Bon Jovi's part on the duet "Who Says You Can't Go Home."
But arguably the best moment of the set was its acoustic cover of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable." "It's time to get intimate," Nettles joked before the entire band lined up across the front of the stage. The group's harmonizing was impeccable, and although some people in the audience looked confused, it truly sounded fantastic.
Here is Kenny Chesney's set list:
"Beer in Mexico"
"Keg in the Closet"
"Live Those Songs"
"No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems"
"The Woman With You"
"Living in Fast Forward"
"The Good Stuff"
"I Go Back"
"Anything but Mine"
"Don't Happen Twice"
"Old Blue Chair"
"Back Where I Come From"
"You Save Me"
"When the Sun Goes Down"
"How Forever Feels"
"She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy"
"There Goes My Life"