Every time Kenny Chesney graces the revolving RodeoHouston stage, it offers us all a slice of carefree beach life in the middle of a bustling neon and concrete jungle.
The unofficial rodeo dress code loosens a bit. A little less Cavender's and more Port Aransas beach shop during spring break. Square-toe boots give way to actually exposed toes, even with a sMarch cold front blowing down the carnival alleyways.
If you squint, the most coddled dirt in Harris County — found on the floor of NRG Stadium — could be mistaken for ruddy beach sand, at least from all way up top in the RodeoHouston press box.
On Wednesday March 15, Chesney's "No Shoes Nation" yacht (and the accompanying Blue Chair Bay Rum bus) docked at NRG Stadium for his ninth RodeoHouston performance on the star stage, in front of a crowd of 72,078.
Chesney's had a somewhat lengthy layoff from the rodeo, last appearing here in 2016. COVID, of course, likely delayed a sooner return. Early in his career, he was a rodeo mainstay each year when he was another 'hat act' looking to be the next George Strait.
His relationship with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo dates back to the Astrodome in 2001, putting him in rare air amongst this year's lineup of upstarts and young bucks.
In starker perspective, 2023's season opener Parker McCollum was just an eight-year-old in the Conroe area when Chesney debuted next door at the Dome in 2001.
Chesney stepped out to beachy, upbeat tunes like "Beer in Mexico."Kenny Chesney RodeoHouston 2023 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
The easy brush to paint 54-year-old Chesney with is the "Jimmy Buffett in Bedazzled Jeans." Dive into his discography, and you find devastatingly heartfelt passages hidden next to the "gulf and western" pirate anthems about chasing rum on a weekday and running romantically aground. Living for the night but always dreading the next day's inevitable hangover.Chesney
On Wednesday night, Chesney jumped out of his Ford chariot and returned to the RodeoHouston stage, offering us a "Beer In Mexico" from 2005's The Road and the Radio, with his sturdy touring band locked in the pocket for a hits set.
One of Chesney's secret weapons live has long been having an arena rock-ready touring band. Fans had complained that last weekend's top act, the Turnpike Troubadours, had been plagued with sound issues, but Chesney's road-tested was born and raised on stages bigger than even this one.
The flirtatiously reggae "Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven" would perfectly fit into a custom Spotify 'This is RodeoHouston' playlist, along with "Somewhere With You" and its chiming arena-tonk vocals.
"When the Sun Goes Down" was a stark reminder that Chesney was one of the more cheerful solo acts on the rodeo bill this season. He's happier bounding across the stage with an imaginary drink in his hand like a motivational speaker on a booze cruise. It also made for a longer setlist than most.
"Tonight they told me that this night was my ninth night playing the Houston rodeo," Chesney said from the stage, mentioning his vast collection of HLSR belt buckles, gifts from each headlining set. "We hope to make it to ten real soon."
We've not seen the last invasion of No Shoes Nation at RodeoHouston, not with the Gulf Of Mexico this close by. Hoist that rum-soaked flag — and pass the SPF 100.
Beer In Mexico
Til It's Gone
Here And Now
Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven
Somewhere With You
I Go Back
When The Sun Goes Down
All the Pretty Girls
Living in Fast Forward
Setting The World On Fire
Don’t Happen Twice