July 9, 2008 / 1:42 AM / 9 years ago

Kenny Chesney's songs sound the same after a while

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.

<p>Musician Kenny Chesney performs on NBC's Today Show Summer Concert Series in New York June 13, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>

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.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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