Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Kenny Chesney Doesn't Disappoint

Hey Folks,

Happy 4th of July. It's a perfect time to take a break from work, spend time with family and friends, as well as get blind drunk in the sun. Fly Old Glory, have some good food, some good laughs, and do your best to remember what Independence Day is all about.

Anyway, I saw Kenny Chesney last night at Shoreline down in Mountain View. This was the second time I've seen him live and I must say, it was even better than the first time. The guy rocks, plain and simple.

This year's tour is dubbed the "Flip Flop Tour" for some reason, but the concert has nothing to do with flip flops or beaches or anything like it. Whatever. What's in a name anyway? It's all about the content.

This year, Sugarland and Pat Green are tagging along as openers for Kenny. Two years ago, it was Pat Green and Gretchen Wilson. Unfortunately, the very hot Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland pulled out of this show at the last minute because of some type of "medical ailment" or something. That was kind of a bummer, but that gave more stage time to Pat Green, who should be headlining his own tour.

Green is truly one of my favorite artists. The rowdy Texan's carefree attitude and drunken passion for life and performing is infectious. When he came out on stage, the amphitheatre wasn't full yet, and people were halfheartedly into it. He was barefoot and had obviously consumed a number of cocktails, and had the place absolutely rocking within minutes. I wish he'd had more time to fit in his myriad great tunes, but he made the best of it. By the time he walked off stage, he got a standing ovation and primed the crowd for a heavy dose of Chesney's upbeat set.

There were two events during Green's set that were memorable. Of course, during "Carry On" when he took time in between lyrics to call out individual fans for sitting down was great, but that didn't make the top two. During "Wave on Wave" Green and his band made a seamless transition to U2's "With or Without You" which sounded awesome, and pumped up the crowd. A little before that during "Wrapped in You", Green invited this sleazebag in a cowboy hat with a giant green-feathered pimp coat on stage. The Pat put on the ridiculous coat, and the dirtbag began leading the crowd in a rhythmic clapfest and simultaneous belly laugh. Good scene.

Kenny's set was amazing. Luckily I was waiting in a 20 minute line for an $8.00 MGD so I missed all the nonsense that they put on the video screen to pump people up. He started with "Beer in Mexico" and never looked back.

When you think about it, it's just amazing list of hits that he has. He's already being forced to bump great songs off his set list because there are simply too many. Notable omissions were two of my favorites, "She's Got it All" and "Never Gonna Feel That Way Again." I couldn't think of any others that were glaring omissions, but it would be nice if he skipped the generic and lame "Living in Fast Forward" and played one of the ones I just mentioned, but whatever.

Also, this was my second concert at Shoreline. I saw Brad Paisley there about a month ago. It was pretty full for that show, but the crowd was pretty subdued and wasn't able to coax Brad out for an encore which was embarrassing. This crowd was a different story.

Shoreline officially lists its capacity at 22,000. There were at least 22,000 people there. I don't know if they could possibly oversell its capacity, but it was a mass of humanity that I haven't seen at a concert before. I guess it's just the way the venue is situated. We of course (thanks to Jack Boland's Comcast connections) were about 15 rows from the stage, but looking up the hill into the grass area and seeing all those people all waving their arms around was a sight. It was truly a wild, wild scene.

By no means is this an isolated incident. Kenny is in new territory. He's now booking NFL stadiums as part of his tour. The man sold out Pittsburgh's Heinz Field and Philly's Lincoln Financial Field, and is scheduled to sell out Qwest Field up in Seattle. That's big. That's really big-- especially for those tough East Coast markets. It just proves that songs about life and living appeal to people of all kinds, not just hardcore country fans. Of course his music has gotten a little "poppy" and sugary, but people just totally dig it. Even his slower songs are fan favorites.

My biggest complaint about the show was the inexplicable inclusion of Uncle Kracker.

Yes, he sings his part of "When the Sun Goes Down" (one of Kenny's worst songs anyway), but he stayed out there way too long. The guy barely had a career to begin with. He had one hit and has been living off that song and the generosity of friends Kenny and Kid Rock ever since. It's getting old Kracker. The guy looks like a complete slob, and has a complete lack of recognizable skills, decency and relevance.

In addition to those less than stellar attributes, he came out blasted out of his gourd. I was trying to figure out whether it was just pure alcohol or if it was something else, but the guy was in a bad way. He stumbled around stage, slurring his words, and wearing a Mets hat (which started a little off center, and ended up completely sideways by the end of his "performance" --and I use that term very loosely).

I just don't understand what Kenny is doing with this loser on his tour. The guy is strung out on drugs and doesn't offer anything. I also didn't appreciate how it went from Kracker singing his part on one song, to a full blown rip-off session of the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider", "Drift Away" and Kid Rock's "Cowboy". It turned into an ill-conceived and ill performed rap concert during "Cowboy" and it would have ruined weaker concerts.

It would be one thing if Kid Rock came out and did a few songs and did his part for "Cowboy", but a legally retarded Kracker and an awkwardly participating Kenny just made this whole 15 minute segment reek of irrelevance and poor taste.

Thankfully, Kracker eventually stumbled off the stage and the concert returned. If anyone actually read this column other than the people I force to read it, I would advise them to go to the bathroom and wait in line for a beer as soon as they start "When the Sun Goes Down". It's simply not worth anyone's time.

After the Kracker debacle, Kenny returned to his meat and potatoes tunes like "How Forever Feels", "I Go Back", and "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy". They're all just so good. If you were to ask 10 different Kenny fans what their 2 favorite songs are, you might get 20 different songs.

Anyway, I think anyone who is questioning whether or not they should go to a Chesney show should just stop thinking and go. Even people who've never heard any one of his songs or think they hate country music would enjoy themselves. There's a reason why the man routinely sells nearly $100 million dollars worth of ticket sales alone every year. Go and see what the fuss is about.

Oh yeah. Everybody write a letter to your Congressman demanding the removal of Uncle Kracker from public view. He should be locked up in rehab in a foreign country.

Until next time...