Kenny Chesney delivers the good life at Molson Amphitheatre: review

Kenny Chesney Photo: LawrenceFung, Creative Commons

The audience lapped it up, as the “tropical” country star paraded his sun-kissed playlist. And talented opener Kacey Musgraves is going places.

By: Nick Krewen



Published on Fri Aug 16 2013

Kenny Chesney
At the Molson Amphitheatre, Aug. 15
3.5 stars

Since there’s no official category for “tropical” country music, Kenny Chesney should perhaps file the papers and register his entitlement to the genre.

It’s no secret that since the late 1990s, the Virgin Islands have served as a second home to the Knoxville native and four-time CMA Entertainer of the Year, and he made a point of emphasizing it for the first portion of his close-to-capacity concert at the Molson Amphitheatre Thursday night.

A tanned and muscular Chesney, who has obviously torn a page from the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle credo of boats, beaches, bars, bikinis and business, set a torrid pace of escapism as soon as he set foot on stage, kicking off the two-hour party with “Feel Like a Rock Star” from 2012’s Welcome To The Fishbowl and performing “Reality,” “Beer in Mexico,” “Pirate Flag” and “Summertime” in rapid succession, as images of the good life — sand, sea and sexy, pneumatically enhanced women — were projected on four screens behind, above and beside him.

And boy was the audience lapping it up, on their feet from the get-go, many with beers in their hand, dancing away as Chesney spun good-time tales of situations where care and worry are distant — perhaps even non-existent — concerns.

As for the show’s host, he was the agile, athletic one.

Backed by a stellar seven-piece band — four of them guitarists, because you can never have too much guitar in contemporary country music these days — Chesney pounced on his audience in predator mode, restlessly stalking the stage as he sang his tales, punching his arm in the air as he sung to his patrons, rather then at them, at least conveying the notion that not only did he believe every word of his songs, but that it mattered that he did.

As a result, much of his lighter fare — “Young,” “You and Tequila” and the reggae-tinged “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” — seemed to take on an additional gravitas due to the adrenaline rush of Chesney’s own conviction.
And when he did get reflective or serious, as during the ballad “When I See This Bar” — the sole cut he played from his latest album Life On A Rock — or “The Boys of Fall,” accompanied by footage of Chesney’s university football days, the crowd calmed down long enough to listen, something that seemed to impress the entertainer making his first Toronto stop in just under two years.

While much of his music has a tendency to sound the same, there were a few stylistic diversions that shifted the momentum ever so slightly in a refreshing manner, the best being “Somewhere With You,” a brooding piece of romance with a slight Brazilian beat that transports you into an evocative mood, and a spot that Chesney used as a transition to transport the audience back to some of his earlier hits.

By the time the closing chords of the encore “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” had echoed into the night, the crowd had duly received what Chesney came to deliver: a brief vacation from their everyday lives.

Like his musical peer Buffett, Chesney has learned to how to bottle it — quite literally, he’s just launched his own line of rum — and sell it, and the masses are only too willing to imbibe it.

In addition to Chesney’s No Shoes Nation headline spot, one of the opening acts provided a very exciting glimpse into an extraordinary talent.

Texas siren Kacey Musgraves didn’t have a lengthy enough warm-up spot to really let loose on the crowd, but smart, self-penned songs like “Follow Your Arrow” and “Merry Go Round” is the kind of intellectual, observant stuff that’s outside the Music Row treadmill of mindless confection.

With a nod to tradition, a foot stuck in reality and a wry sense of humour, Musgraves has an amazing career ahead of her.

Just wait and see.

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