While he’s the same Kenny—his singing
actually was a little more ragged than usual—the emphasis of the show
had shifted. This time he played in front of 12 musicians including a
four-piece horn section, and these guys were all major-leaguers.
Special effects were minimized as the focal point was a simple video
screen behind the cast and lighting effects were tasteful and nicely
coordinated all night.
Since commercial success gives a singer
opportunities to record better material, the songs are somewhat
stronger, as demonstrated by the recent single, “Down The Road,” the
second Mac McAnally song recorded by Chesney. McAnally, also a
collaborator of Kenny hero Jimmy Buffett, is a gifted tunesmith who
can’t get any support from country radio for his own recordings, but he
rode the wave with Chesney when they released this song as a duet.
The party-time approach worked best with
upbeat songs, like the banjo-infused “Never Wanted Nothin’ More,” and
“When The Sun Goes Down,” allowing the horns and percussion to keep the
star dashing across the stage and making the audience forget about the
lousy weather. Chesney made his mission clear in telling the audience
that the world’s problems would be forgotten for this evening.
As the 41-year-old Tennessean tries to
turn his shows into the country version of Buffett’s wild spectacles,
he can downplay his lackluster singing and take advantage of more
quality songs rocked out by a fine orchestra, so the end product is a
fun night, even when the closest thing to a tropical beach nearby is
There was, however, one terrific voice
at the Grandstand that night, as Jake Owen celebrated his 28th birthday
with a too-short set of strong country singing. Fans who stayed under
the stands to avoid getting wet missed out on a simple, straightforward
opener that should soon be a popular headliner. This kid’s rich vocal
rumble and easygoing stage presence make him someone to watch,
especially because country needs more young singers who keep it this