Monday, August 15, 2011

Kenny Chesney @ The Meadowlands (8/13/2011) by Brett Lemberger

The bigger the crowd, the bigger the spotlight, the bigger the performance.

Kenny Chesney entertained an estimated crowd of 55,000 non-stop for 2.5 hours, with a 31-song set list that rocked New Meadowlands Stadium. Although rain was in the forecast all afternoon, the only interruptions were a number of pauses for Chesney to hint, "we usually stop now but we're gonna keep on playin' if that's alright with you."

While set list websites claim Chesney played an 8-song encore, there was never an initial exit. There was no curtain call. Chesney played right on through and even invited some friends to come out and join him, including the Zac Brown Band, who was more than just an opening act on Saturday.

Including the final 8 songs with Chesney, ZBB played a total of 27 hits, and provided evidence that the 82,566 person venue could be home to one of their own shows some day.

To the crowd who had been tailgating since the morning, and mostly remained in the parking lots while Uncle Kracker and then Billy Currington warmed up the microphones, the ZBB was a reason for fans to pack up their grills and head to their seats.

They opened with As She's Walking Away, a beautifully melodic tune that accentuates the vocal prowess of the grizzly Zac Brown. As the sun began to set in the NJ sky, ZBB rounded out their afternoon with fan favorites It's Not Okay, Highway 20 and Colder Weather. In the midst of their strong harmonies, ZBB broke out The Devil Went Down To Georgia, a perfect song for a band that stars Jimmy de Martini on the violin.

As the night sky continued to grow darker, Zac Brown made sure that the fans who came for him left happy. At this point in their career, A ZBB concert without Chicken Fried would be like a 2005 O.A.R. concert without 'Crazy Game of Poker'. Their rendition of their first hit, along with the rest of their performance, met every expectation. Zac Brown flew through the fretboard of his guitar with unanticipated grace, and readied the crowd for the biggest attraction of the 7 hour concert event.

(See Zac Brown Band's complete set list here)

Chesney introduced himself to the crowd by floating down above the center of the field seats, a stunt he pulled at Madison Square Garden in July of 2006. A bit more interesting this time as there is no roof to the 1 year old venue. He came in singing Live A Little and followed it up with Reality. After that it was vintage Chesney, playing old songs that the crowd sang when Chesney moved off of the mic.

His concerts mean the weather's warm, and his music fit the bill. Summertime, Beer In Mexico, and No Shoes No Shirt No Problem were much more soothing than the $9.75 beers.

Chesney's ability to change tempo without missing a beat was one theme of the night. From the romantic Anything But Mine and You And Tequila, the boy from Tennessee jumped right into Living In Fast Forward. And from Out Last Night, Chesney settled into When The Sun Goes Down as he reintroduced Uncle Kracker to the New Jersey crowd.

The other theme of the evening was a tribute to everyone else important in Chesney's life. Covers made up 10 of the final 14 songs. Everything from Kid Rock's Cowboy, to Steve Miller's The Joker, which overlapped with Bob Marley's Three Little Birds. It was at this point that the stage was full of celebrities including the entire Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, Sonya Leigh and New York Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher.

One final person important to Chesney made an appearance: his mom. Chesney deemed this particular show important enough to invite his mother onto the stage to give a wave to the crowd.

The day was proof that country does exist in the north. And while one romantic song was absent from the set list, the whole crowd was certainly happy not to have to hear There's Something Sexy About The Rain.

(See Kenny Chesney's complete set list here)

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