With an a cappella “Whatever makes you feel like a rock star” and one crashing downbeat, Kenny Chesney’s second night at Gillette Stadium and final No Shoes Nation show took off like a bobsled, slamming through four songs including the gold certified “Pirate Flag” before he took a breath. Both nights, the crowd of 109,207 was on its feet, singing along with the 8-time Entertainer of the Year’s two hour-plus set.
“There’s energy, and then there’s energy,” an exhausted Chesney said, coming offstage the second night. “The fans in Boston have always been very, very special to us. These were our 10th and 11th shows at Gillette; every year, it just gets more intense.”
To celebrate the milestone, the Kraft family had a Super Bowl-style banner hung permanently near an end zone to commemorate the naming of the No Shoes Nation in 2012. The blue and white vertical flag rippled in the wind as Chesney and his band blazed through a 27 song set that included guest appearances from tourmates Kasey Musgraves on “Come Over,” the Eli Young Band on “Take It Easy” and Eric Church for the current single “When I See The Bar,” which the Luttrell, Tennessean told the crowd, “There’s a radio version but we’re going to do the album version” and dedicated the final verse to his many friends who shared his coming of age in the Virgin Islands.
“It’s an incredible life,” Chesney says. “Looking over and seeing all those faces, it was like ‘When I See This Bar’ was happening right there on stage right… and having Eric sing it with me, a guy who knows what it means to punch it out in a little dive bar with nobody there, well, that’s everything that song is! And everybody’s been there.”
Being the end of tour, there were several “guests” of unlikely origin. NoShoesRadio.com’s Mark Tamburino free-rapped “Blister in the Sun,” while production steward Robin Majors blew some tasty harp on the set closing “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” Beyond a spot-on cover of “The Fireman,” Chesney evoked early U2 overtones on the outro of “Come Over” and the Dave Matthews Band on his reggae-tinged “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven.”
But it was the hushed “Happy On the Hey Now,” considered to be the emotional center of Life On A Rock, Chesney’s 7th #1 Billboard Top 200 Albums debut, that brought almost 55,000 fans to a hush. Never played in concert, it was a starkly acoustic debut for the song written about living in the moment, the sudden loss of a dear friend and the preciousness of what is shared with friends.
“I was a little nervous about doing a song so quiet and so personal in a venue that big,” Chesney said. “But so many of the people who were part of that song were there… I knew those fans were just as much a part of my life, and I wasn’t going to see them again until 2015… and I wanted something to bind us all together. It was a risk, and when I saw all the lighters and cell phones with flames aloft, I knew it was the right decision.”
Keep up with Chesney by visiting his official website, www.KennyChesney.com.