Kenny Chesney played a free show last night at Pizza Hut Park in Dallas that drew about 25,000 people. The free concert came in the wake of a rain-shortened May 2 performance, though Chesney was not contractually obligated to come back and play again.
The considerable production tab for last night’s three-hour-plus show was “on Kenny’s dime,” says promoter Louis Messina, president of TMG/AEG Live. “In my whole career no other artist has ever done that,” he tells Billboard.com.
Chesney featured his entire band and full production for the show, which “cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Messina says. “This is why this guy is the real entertainer of the year.”
The stadium, which is operated in a joint venture with AEG, covered its own expenses for the show, including staffing. “You had 25,000 people at the stadium having a good ol’ time, spending a lot of money, but still I’m sure they just made enough to cover their expenses,” says Messina. “They didn’t get rich off it. They were very cooperative.”
The May 2 show drew about 23,500 paid attendance, so even more people returned to the venue for the free show. Messina says only eight people had asked for refunds after the first rain-soaked concert. “Legally we did a show, we didn’t have to come back,” says Messina. “But Kenny felt like he had to come back.”
The show ran longer even than a typical Chesney set on his current Sun City Carnival tour, and include not only Chesney’s hits but covers of songs by George Strait, the Eagles, Van Halen and Lynyrd Skynyrd, according to Messina. “It was one heck of a party on a Sunday night,” he adds. “This is a story of what the music business should be about, not just greed. Here’s a guy that’s about the fans, about doing the right thing.”