Chesney's tour brings 'Stadium Country' to town - East Valley Tribune: News

Chesney's tour brings 'Stadium Country' to town

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Posted: Sunday, June 1, 2008 1:08 am | Updated: 9:26 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Boasting a bill with four legitimate concert headliners, country superstar Kenny Chesney’s “Poets and Pirates Tour 2008” literally ushered in a new genre, “Stadium Country,” when the four time CMA and ACM entertainer of the year and friends made a stop at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Saturday night.

SLIDESHOW: Pirates and Poets tour

Boasting a bill with four legitimate concert headliners, country superstar Kenny Chesney’s “Poets and Pirates Tour 2008” literally ushered in a new genre, “Stadium Country,” when the four time CMA and ACM entertainer of the year and friends made a stop at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Saturday night.

SLIDESHOW: Pirates and Poets tour

Even with the cancellation of LeAnn Rimes due to an inflamed vocal chord, the lineup Saturday night was one that clearly blew away any of bills that Country Thunder trotted out during its four day run in Florence last month, with country hitmakers Gary Allan and Keith Urban sandwiched around rocker Sammy Hagar before Chesney closed out the night with a two hour set.

Tattooed California country rocker Gary Allan was up first, starting at around 4 in the afternoon as the crowd began filtering into the stadium. Allan has scored plenty of top country hits and he rolled out most of them during his 45 minute set including his 200 breakthrough single “Smoke Rings in the Dark,” “Right Where I Need to Be,” “The haunting ballad “Songs About Rain” and his two most recent hits, “Watching Airplanes” and the current chart climber “Learning How to Bend.”

While there was no act on the bill Saturday night that could be labeled “traditional country,” Allan came the closest with his husky vocals and his pedal steel drenched honky-tonkers “Nothing On But the Radio” and his set closer “Drinkin’ Dark Whiskey.

Next up was Sammy Hagar, who has as much to do with country music as Hagar the Horrible, but his penchant for drinking margaritas on stage, wearing shorts and the fact that he owns a beachside bar in Cabo (the Cabo Wabo Cantina) undoubtedly endears him to the beach obsessed Chesney, who put the “Red Rocker” on the tour.

Opening up with “Mas Tequila,” Hagar (who’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of hard rockers Van Halen) got the crowd in the partying mood, kicking beach ball into the audience, shimmying with his bikini clad backup dancers and accepting blue cocktails from a bar on the side of the stage.

Hagar touched upon his best known tunes (“There’s Only One Way to Rock,” Van Halen’s “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Finish What You Started,” and “Three Lock Box”) before getting in the spirit of things – or perhaps to keep the country fans from heading to the bar or restroom – by covering Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar” before wrapping things up with his lone certified classic, “I Can’t Drive 55.”

Aussie Keith Urban, an entertainer of the year candidate year in and year out, was stellar on Saturday. Whether one thinks his music is country or not, Urban is a standout singer and guitarist (along with Brad Paisley, Urban is one of the finest guitar slinging country singers in contemporary country) who busts out rocking guitar solos that would make his countryman, AC/DC’s Angus Young, smile.

Urban kicked off his set with “Days Go By” and proceeded to whip through a too short set of his best known tunes, hits such as “You’re My Better Half,” “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me,” “Stupid Boy” and the ballads “You’ll Think of Me” and “Raining on Sunday” before ending his set with “I Wanna Love Somebody Like You.”

Before Chesney hit the stage the crowd was treated to a video of the singer relaxing on beaches in the Caribbean, drinking Corona (who are, not so coincidentally, sponsoring the “Poets and Pirates” tour) and basically acting like Jimmy Buffett, who has made a living for four decades by selling the sun-soaked escapism to rock fans that Chesney is now offering country fans.

You’ve heard of stadium rock, band such as The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin and U2, acts that routinely filled stadium in their heyday, and now Chesney, with 40,000 or so fans filling University of Phoenix Stadium, has ushered in the new era of “Stadium Country.”

Chesney, dressed in a sleeveless black T-shirt, jeans and a black cowboy hat, hasn’t won the ACM and CMA entertainer of the year four years in a row for nothing – his show is packed with strobe lights, video montages, fist-pumping rock guitar solos and the superstar’s ebullient, hands-on relationship with fans lucky enough to be seated (or in this case, standing) near any of the several stage runways that jutted out into the middle of the crowd.

Opening up with “Live These Songs,” Chesney, who with 10 studio albums has scored enough hits to play a good four hours easy, proceeded to prance about the stage like a country Mick Jagger, playing air guitar, sprinting up and down the ramps leading into the audience and generally staying in constant motion while his crack backing band reproduced his biggest hits right down to the last note.

Most of Chesney’s songs can be narrowed into two categories – tunes about the beach and nostalgic offerings that harken back to his college frat boys days of his teen years.

Of his beach-themes hits, the singer on Saturday rolled out “Beer in Mexico,” “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” the solo acoustic “Old Blue Chair” and “When the Sun Goes Down,” during which Chesney’s duet partner Uncle Kracker made a cameo.

Of his nostalgic tunes, Chesney played “Keg in the Closet,” “I Go Back, “Young,” “Never Wanted Nothin’ More,” Back Where I Came From” and “Just Don’t Happen Twice.”

With shows like this, where the singer had the adoring crowd eating out of his hand from the second the big “Poets and Pirates” curtain dropped, it’s not inconceivable that Chesney will win his fifth consecutive entertainer of the year award, certifying the singer as the biggest country superstar since Garth Brooks retired in 2001.

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