Taking 2017 off from his relentless summer touring schedule, Kenny Chesney knew he couldn’t skip Boston. Having become a tradition at Gillette Stadium, the home of the new England Patriots, the 8-time Entertainer of the Year agreed to play two summer-ending stadium shows in the place where No Shoes Nation was named. And what shows they were!
Adding seats four separate times, Chesney took the stage to 121,624 people over two nights with distinctly different set lists. Taking the stage on Friday to “Beer In Mexico,” Chesney clearly responded to the record-breaking crowd with a seven song streak that didn’t break its stride.
“I had waited all summer to get to these shows,” Chesney said Friday. “It takes a lot of focus to make records, but it’s the No Shoes Nation that feeds me. When we started listening to the tapes for the live record, it really struck me how much this music means – and how much the people who come out to these shows feed my soul. There are no words for it… beyond, just, ‘wow.’”
Wearing a New England Patriots tank top, the crowd spent almost a minute chanting “Kenny! Kenny” following “American Kids.” Stunned by the response, the man The Los Angeles Times called “The People’s Superstar” led the crowd through an impromptu chorus before returning to the show. Whether an early classic like “Don’t Happen Twice” or “How Forever Feels,” album cut “Guitars, Tiki Bars & A Whole Lot of Love,” the stadium-lighting “Anything But Mine” or the brand new “All The Pretty Girls,” Chesney connected and took the crowd higher.
The Boston Globe wrote, “on Friday he was particularly animated, whether boisterous or humbled. He raced around the stage to get a better look at those attendees who crowded into the general-admission ‘sandbar’ up-close; he gazed at the adulatory audience, who were more than ready to finish his verses and give him long ovations,” while The Providence Journal opined, “Chesney proved the ultimate showman and storyteller.” Foxboro Patch headlined their coverage, “Kenny Chesney And Co. Put Substance Over Style.”
“Obviously, we’re not in stadium mode,” Chesney explained, “so we made the decision to really lean into the music, really put the focus there. We’d not gotten to play these songs – and these two shows were our tour end without the tour!”
On the second night, Chesney brought out his good friend Uncle Kracker for a four-song mini-set that included “When The Sun Goes Down,” “Follow Me,” “Midnight Rider/Cowboy” and “Drift Away.” He also introduced his mother to the crowd to resounding cheers. The emotional high point by far was when Chesney – before playing local favorite “Boston” – reminded the fans of the year prior’s cancer patient who’d not wanted to take her ball cap off, but ended up rubbing bare heads with the songwriter/superstar.
Kelly Swanson emerged from the sandbar and thanked the No Shoes Nation for the strength and inspiration to carry her through her battle with cancer. She was reunited with Taylor Phelan, the young girl who ran onstage to give Swanson the football helmet Chesney had given her.
This year’s shows – his 16th and 17th – bring No Shoes Nation’s ticket total to 968,612 since 2005. With her heart on his sleeve and his songs on the lips of New England, Chesney has made New England a second home.