The hottest ticket of the summer is back on the road with his first tour since 2019
Here’s a new riddle: If it’s a warm month, but Kenny Chesney hasn’t stopped in your town, is it really summer yet?
The president of No Shoes Nation kicked off summer for the Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia region when he took at Jiffy Lube Live a little past 8:45 on Thursday, June 16th. Chesney opened with an extended, jamming “Beers in Mexico” before launching into “Reality.” The latter song promised to transport 25,000 people to a beach oasis far, far away from their troubles.
True to his own lyrics, when the sun went down, Chesney brought the heat.
Chesney himself was dressed in his curated, laid back manner: flowing light blue tank, jeans, and the low-brim cowboy sun hat that has become his trademark. He and his band plowed — like the tractor in that damn song (we’ll get there) — through 20-plus numbers in 1 hour and 40 minutes. The pace never let up, save for a few tender moments.
One of those tender moments was the beloved “Old Blue Chair.” Though a contemplative ballad, Chesney sang it with his same signature breezy care-free tone. Another moment that stopped the show was a rare road tradition: a birthday in No Shoes Nation. Kizzi, who works for amp Shoes Radio, had tens of thousands sing her “Happy Birthday” while longtime road crew member Ed Wannebo brought her a Mega-Pint of… something.
Throughout the night, Chesney jumped, bounced, and grooved all around the open-planned stage. Though the stage was the standard rig built into Jiffy Lube’s band shell, Chesney’s crew still managed to set up his signature double-wide T-shaped runway with a GA pit to allow fans to grab his hand or have his sweat land on them. It was also apparent that he — and his entire team — were happy to be back on the road. If it’s not summer without Chesney, then it follows that Kenny is not himself without a season of pavement-pounding.
The fans were equally eager to return to them place where no shirt and no shoes are indeed no problem. As a Kenny Chesney show is one of the hottest draws of concerts, the release of pent-up energy added another dimension to the night. They sang every word on rocking hits “American Kids” and “Young.” They stayed with Chesney & Co as “All the Pretty Girls” melted right into “Living in Fast Forward.”
The newest music also received an enthusiastic response. “Here and Now” delivered the in-the-moment escapism that has become a trademark of the Chesney sound. And the loud call-and-response on “We Do” made it seem like a 20 year old single. For others to sing these songs, it would be fantasy. But Chesney comes off as a man who lives the life he sings about.
And then there’s….that song. That song that will follow Chesney everywhere he goes. It’s the song that catapulted him to superstardom. But it has nothing to do with sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, drinking tequila on a boat, or any of the other imagery that has become a part of Kenny Chesney’s FloraBama appeal. No, his biggest song will always be about a freakin’ tractor.
I kid of course. “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” has been a country music mainstay for decades. And while songs of its ilk have a certain knowing wink to its cheesiness, it still feels authentically Chesney when he plays it. And play it, he does. Chesney still plays it with as much enthusiasm as the day it was released. He knows the fans came to hear it, and he is more than willing to give them what they want.
Chesney ended the show with “Tractor,” and spent several minutes signing merch and other items for any and every fan at the end of the catwalk. It is heartwarming to see the man show such genuine gratitude to the fans that allow him to live permanently in No Shoes Nation. I, for one, can’t wait for my next musically tropical getaway.