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Concert Reviews:
Sun brothers Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw shine bright at Ford Field

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2012

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DETROIT -- The joke around Kenny Chesney's last few appearances here was that Ford Field was finally hosting a winner.

The Detroit Lions' recent success renders that inapplicable, of course, but on Saturday, Aug. 18, Chesney's sixth performance at the team's home showed that he's still a reigning champ of stadium-sized spectacle for both country audiences and popular music in general.

Chesney simply has a playbook full of game-winning tricks, from an extensive video production to a relentlessy cheerful (and extremely white-toothed) demeanor and an entrance that takes him, overhead, from the middle of the field to the stage atop a special seat outfitted with a camera to chronicle his journey. And, of course, there's a batch of big hits that have become nothing less than contemporary country staples.

What Chesney also does right is continue to evolve the concept -- and this year he came up with a game-changer. While previous tour partners such as the Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban and Sugarland certainly added value to the fans' dollar, having another bona fide superstar on this year's bill -- Tim McGraw, positioned as a co-headliner on the Brothers of the Sun Tour -- only ramped up the excitement for a perennial sell-out show. And, with 85 Top 10 country chart hits between them, it also made sure the 47,000 or so at Ford Field on Saturday spent even more time singing along than the usually do.

The day's undercard fared well, too, with Jake Owen and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals both turning in well-received early sets. Sporting a Detroit Tigers shirt a fan tossed on stage, Owen romped through chart-topping hits such as "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" and "Alone With You" as well as a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "That Smell," while Potter's high-spirited charm -- and the cachet of a hit duet with Chesney (last year's "You and Tequila") -- won acceptance for a hard-rocking set that included a cover of ZZ Top's "Tush."

McGraw, meanwhile, played a country Captain America -- complete with a T-shirt bearing the superhero's iconic emblem -- saving the world with a hit-filled 100 minutes that rocked even harder than it twanged. The opening "Felt Good on My Lips" was one of more than a dozen No. 1 country hits in the 21-song set, which ran from the crunchy grit of "Real Good Man" and "Southern Voice" to the soaring anthemry of "Last Dollar (Fly Away)" and "All I Want is a Life," the out-and-out pop of "Mexicoma" and ballads such as "Everywhere," "Better Than I Used to Be" and "LIve Like You Were Dying."

McGraw and his band finished with his current single, "Truck Yeah," a sure sign that he won't be flying away any time soon.

Chesney, per usual, rose to the level of his concert mates. Sporting a sleeveless Detroit Lions T-shirt and his trademark straw cowboy hat, he spent most of his time on the ramp extending onto the Ford Field floor and rocked his way through dependable crowd-pleasers such as "Summertime," "How Forever Feels," "Back Where I Come From," "Young" and "The Boys of Fall" -- during which he presented a young boy in the crowd with a Lions helmet. "Come Over," the No. 1 hit from his latest album "Welcome to the Fishbowl," was clearly welcomed into his body of work, and while he brought Potter onstage for "You and Tequila" -- Chesney performed "When the Sun Goes Down" without his Detroit duet partner, Uncle Kracker.

The encores, meanwhile, let Chesney and McGraw establish their "brotherhood." They started their hit duet "Feel Like a Rock Star" with Chesney on the main stage and McGraw out atop the sound board station before the latter made his way back by walking through the crowd. They traded vocals on Chesney's "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" and McGraw's "Indian Outlaw" before bringing Owen and Potter out for a show-closing cover of Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty."

Chesney, who has one more weekend left on the tour, promised the Detroit crowd that it was the best of the tour -- a pat line, of course, which he's delivered, well, every other time he's been through town. At this point he really needn't worry; after six visits he's become a summer staple, and a big turnout is as certain as the high quality of Chesney's performance.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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