Kenny Chesney: Half cowboy, half beach bum
Just like The Rolling Stones and Miley Cyrus before him, cool cat cowboy Kenny Chesney debuts his new 3D concert film at a big screen near you next month. But last night Houston received an exclusive multi-dimensional sneak preview of what that movie might look like when Chesney took over the RodeoHouston stage at Reliant Stadium ... in the flesh.
No dorky glasses needed.
Making his debut performance of 2010, Chesney shook off the cobwebs of what was, no doubt, a fabulous island getaway to offer up 75 minutes of chart-topping jukebox favorites. The culmination of his decade-plus of non-stop recording and touring was being honored as entertainer of the year at last year's Academy of Country Music Awards.
What makes a Chesney concert great is that, without ever leaving the building, the audience is treated to a country show, a crossover-rock show and a beach party with music inspired by the great Jimmy Buffet.
Opening with former No.1 single "Beer in Mexico" from 2006's "The Road and the Radio," it was clear Chesney was still thinking about the sea ... even if his body was surrounding by cattle droppings and bull rider blood leftover from the rodeo competition earlier that evening. Chesney's crack band started the song as a straight Nashville session, but a mid-song blast from a backing brass ensemble highlighted by an extended saxophone improvisation, made the seaside breeze more tangible.
"Keg In the Closet," "Big Star," and the more recent "Out Last Night," (from last year's "Greatest Hits II" compilation) were all straight honky tonk shooters. It made the quick shift to Chesney's personal Margaritaville for "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems," and the steel drum ska influence on"When The Sun Goes Down" a welcome change that drew a high-decibel approval rating from the crowd.
The buzzing electric strings that charge "I Go Back," are proof that Chesney could rock as hard as a Bon Jovi or Kid Rock if he wanted to. And his steely baritone vocals on the ballad, "Anything But Mine," demonstrated that he can swoon with the crooners when necessary.
But country is Chesney's meat-n-taters. If he didn't love the boot-scootin' even more than the beach, he wouldn't keep dragging early hillbilly favorite, "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," out of mothballs after all these years to end this show.
This was Chesney's first appearance at RodeoHouston since he played five consecutive years ending in 2005. Scoring him now, at the height of his celebrity, for RodeoHouston was a real coup for the organizers considering this is the first year in over a decade that he has no official tour plans. This show in Houston was part of a handful of incognito dates on the unofficially titled, "We're Not Touring This Year" tour.
Consider yourself lucky, Houston. Most of the rest of the country only gets to see Kenny in the movies this year.