Adoring crowd stokes Chesney's energetic show
If the two billboard-sized, bikini-clad women offering up Mai Tais from banners flanking the stage weren't enough of an indication, Kenny Chesney's...
Special to The Seattle Times
Saturday night, Qwest Field
If the two billboard-sized, bikini-clad women offering up Mai Tais from banners flanking the stage weren't enough of an indication, Kenny Chesney's Flip Flop Summer Tour is a party in the making. And the packed Qwest Field crowd Saturday night seemed ready and willing to partake.
Standing on chairs, beers aloft, the audience sang along with every song and cheered the energetic star again and again.
Chesney's musical styles come in a fiesta fun pack, ranging from straight-ahead honky-tonk rock to soft country ballads to margarita-flavored Jimmy Buffett homages. He can play the romancer ("Love to Lay You Down"), the beer-swilling buddy ("Keg in the Closet") or the thoughtful balladeer ("The Good Stuff"). And he does each with sincerity and unabashed enthusiasm, continually bending down to touch hands and then bounding across the stage to connect with another part of the crowd.
The pint-sized, 39-year-old singer looked moved by the unceasing adoration. But he shouldn't have been surprised: He said last year's stop in Seattle was the best of the summer.
He showed his thanks by adding a number of references to the Emerald City, including a video montage of local landmarks during "Back Where I Come From." He even slipped in a couple of digs at The Seattle Times, disputing an article that said he didn't write his own songs. He does indeed pen some of his own, albeit not a majority, including the lovely "Old Blue Chair," which he played even though he said he hadn't planned to.
Mixing things up even more, Chesney brought out Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn to sing their hit "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone." As Chesney described how the song inspired him to push forward in his career, he seemed quite aware of the popular duo's place in country music and how lucky he is to now be on the bill in front of them.
Brooks & Dunn preceded Chesney with a solid hour of polished hits. Ronnie Dunn sang lead on most, but it was the few songs that Brooks helmed, "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)" and "She Likes to Get Out of Town," that had the most energy. They ended with a moving version of "Only in America" as four soldiers joined the duo on stage. They capped the song and their set with an explosion of red, white and blue streamers that covered the audience.
Even with the pyrotechnics, Brooks & Dunn couldn't quite match the energy of the rising stars that played before them, Sugarland. The duo, backed by a number of affable musicians including a tattooed accordion player, brought the crowd to its feet with their charismatic stage presence. They interacted with the audience and each other in a way that was entertaining without ever feeling forced — think guitarist Kristian Bush dropping to the ground to play his guitar with his arms wrapped around lead singer Jennifer Nettles' leg. And Nettles may be one of the most charming front women in rock with her feet planted wide, an easy smile and a strong, nuanced belt.
Solo artists Pat Green and Sara Evans started the seven-hour country extravaganza.
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