Giant crowd and original moments make Kenny Chesney's Big Dance concert finalespecial
Three days ago I wrote that, in addition to the fans of the Final Four teams, the big winners of this weekend's The Big Dance concert series were live music fans. After watching downtown transformed by the estimated 35,000 who took in country all-star Kenny Chesney's performance at Discovery Green Sunday night, I'd like to expand that winner's bracket.
The entire city of Houston has come out looking like champs.
Following two amazing days of concerts highlighted by ska-rockers Sublime with Rome and alt-rock royalty Kings of Leon, Chesney finished off the series with a 90-minute performance that was loose, lively, and imbued with a spring break party spirit. Fans of Kentucky and Virginia Commonwealth who remained in town after Final Four losses on Saturday regained their high spirits while fans of Connecticut and Butler were starting to up the energy for Monday's championship game.
And all around them were Houstonians basking in the glow of a new downtown Houston in which top-notch entertainment in a family-friendly metropolitan common green space can exist on a spring Sunday night.
Chesney took to a stage built on property that, a decade ago, was a string of parking lots near a wasteland for the homeless and a meeting place for drug dealers. On Sunday he played to a concert crowd of families that freely walked with baby strollers and kids playing Pop-A-Shot. Couples ate fried chicken lollipops from Max's Wine Dive booth and drinks flowed for blocks.
Underneath the watchful eye of the downtown Hilton and gleaming new office and residential towers, Chesney hosted a party that stretched for the length of a football in front of him and he didn't waste the opportunity. Opening with his most recent single, "Live A Little," from his most recent album, Hemingway's Whiskey, the beach-combing cowboy ran through a set of 16 songs going back 15 years into his career, along with a few surprises.
After a year off from touring Chesney looks well rested and a ready to entertain. Traditional two-steps like "Living In Fast Forward" were mixed with south of the border party anthems like "Summertime" and "Beer In Mexico."
Like many new country artists Chesney likes to flirt with the line between country and something resembling rock. "Big Star" has an electric guitar intro worthy of Kid Rock while "I Go Back" borrows the rhyming of "Chevy" and "Levee" that Don McLean made iconic 40 years ago in "American Pie."
And when he turns on the pooka shell beach bum charm on party favorites like, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems," visions of Jimmy Buffet are hard not to conjure.
But Chesney's performance featured just as many orignal moments, including an off-the-cuff duet of David Allan Coe's, "You Never Even Call Me By My Name," with guest Uncle Kracker that clearly wasn't rehearsed and more endearing as a result.
He left the crowd with nostalgic football anthem "Boys of Fall," but on this night it was spring and March Madness that fueled a downtown Houston celebration that, not so long ago, would have been hard to imagine.