NASHVILLE (Hollywood Reporter) - Only one guy has mounted a full tour of outdoor stadiums during this economically shaky summer, and that lone figure, Kenny Chesney, brought his show to about 45,000 fans at Nashville’s NFL stadium Saturday.
Between Chesney’s 20-plus songs and a string of lead-in acts — Keith Urban, Sammy Hagar, LeAnn Rimes and Gary Allan — the crowd got a veritable radio playlist: 50 hits — and a few stray covers — in a little more than seven hours.
Chesney, who made several references to growing up in small-town East Tennessee, is not country’s greatest pure singer. His vocal tone is often brittle, his range is limited and he’s not particularly expressive — but he’s decent enough and knows a big, sing-along hook when he hears it.
With a four-piece horn section — led by Wrecking Crew saxman Jim Horn — augmenting his band, Chesney also employed a runway system that gave him a central route into the middle of the stadium floor, allowing many more people to get near him.
As he has on most of his stadium shows, Chesney also trotted out a celebrity with local ties, bringing on Jennifer Nettles of the country duo Sugarland to belt out “Stay,” the powerful story of a love triangle that recently won the Academy of Country Music’s single record and song of the year awards.
Nettles proved a bit essential because the one major flaw in what’s mostly an engaging show is the sense of sameness that prevailed: too many songs of similar feel and message, too little divergence in sound within Chesney’s set.
Each act seemed to stake out some territory of its own: Urban offered shiny, happy pop-country; Hagar was loud and absurd; Rimes took a sexy, playful stance; and Allan cast a dark mood over his 11 songs.
Despite the lack of variety in Chesney’s set, there likely were few complaints. A stadium requires bigness; 50 hits in one show — that’s big.