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Concert Reviews:
Kenny Chesney renews his Detroit connection at Ford Field

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, August 21, 2011

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DETROIT -- Last summer, Kenny Chesney interrupted what had become an annual rite of playing (and selling out) Ford Field. But that absence made Motor City fans' hearts grow, if anything, fonder when the hat-wearing country star returned to the stadium for a fifth time on Saturday night (Aug. 20).

The 45,000 or so who packed the home of the Lions still think Chesney's tractor's sexy and are still of the "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem" mentality. The Chesneyheads swapped Coronas for margaritas and preferred Hooters for their cheeseburgers in paradise, but the six-hour-plus party -- which also featured the Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington and Detroit's own Uncle Kracker -- mixed the beachcombing levity of a typical Jimmy Buffett concert with the same raucous energy that populated Kid Rock's shows the previous weekend across the street at Comerica Park. And it certainly had beer and alcohol sales to rival both.

Chesney has delivered one new studio album since his last visit -- 2010's chart-topping "Hemingway's Whiskey" -- and it provided the bookends for his 20-song main set, starting with the upbeat pairing of "Live a Little" (which he sang while riding to a stage in a chair suspended above the crowd) and "Reality" and closing with the football-boosting ballad "The Boys of Fall." "Somewhere With You" and "You and Tequila," the latter of which Chesney performed solo on the long ramp that extended from the stage into the Ford Field floor, also popped up in the show.

Mostly, though, Chesney spent the night reacquainting himself with his fans via the hits. "Summertime," "Beer in Mexico," "Big Star," I Got Back," "There Goes My Life," "How Forever Feels" and the rest cruised by like a greatest hits album on shuffle, played with crack precision by Chesney's band while the star's toothy visage was beamed across a variety of video screens positioned around the stage. Uncle Kracker, meanwhile, received a big ovation when he returned to the stage to join Chesney for their hit 2004 duet "When the Sun Goes Down."

As solid as the main show was, however, the half-hour encore left it in the dust. First Chesney brought Currington back on to sing a bit of "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy." Then the Zac Brown Band -- whose own 85-minute set was stellar but not quite the right fit for a stadium crowd -- came on for an extended and exuberant mini-set that started with a medley of Alabama's "Dixieland Delight" and "If You're Gonna Lay Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)," then rolled through Brown's "Knee Deep," Chesney's "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven" and a version of the Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" that included bits of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and Sublime's "Caress Me Down."

Tom Petty's "Runnin' Down a Dream" brought things to a rocking end, with contest-winning fans joining the tribal-flavored party onstage. Chesney promised that there WILL be a next time, and his Ford Field faithful certainly left hoping that he'll get back on his annual schedule again.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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