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Chesney throws his own tropical party

Posted by James Reed  August 27, 2011 01:26 PM

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Chesney1.jpg
(MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF)

KENNY CHESNEY
With Zac Brown Band
At: Gillette Stadium, last night (show repeats tonight)

By Stuart Munro
Globe Correspondent

FOXBOROUGH -- Aside from Jimmy Buffett, is there any musical artist for whom tropical weather is more topical than Kenny Chesney?

Chesney has built his entire career on singing about island life, moving from being a standard-issue hat act to a stadium-sized megaforce on the strength of "the sea and the sand, and a glass in your hand," and similar celebrations and ruminations. So if a hurricane was going to disrupt anyone's concert, it makes some kind of weird sense that it would be his.

That's exactly what happened this weekend. After a year off to recharge his batteries, the country superstar hit the concert trail again this summer, and sold-out shows Saturday and Sunday at Gillette Stadium were the final stops on his "Goin' Coastal" tour. But once a direct hit by Hurricane Irene became a possibility, the decision was made to move Sunday's concert to last night.

Given the massive amount of time, resources, and preparation involved in putting on the sort of spectacle that Chesney offers his fans, that was no small decision. But the production went off without a hitch; in fact, its main visible effect appeared to be a slightly diminished attendance last night.

Chesney, of course, sings about the pleasures of tropical life, not its occasional downsides, so it was only a matter of time before he instructed the crowd to treat the show like a hurricane party. And -- after he entered on a chair, suspended by wires, that moved back and forth over the crowd before depositing him on a cross-shaped catwalk -- he provided the perfect soundtrack, from the anthems "Summertime” and “Beer in Mexico” to the relaxed swing of "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem.” On "When the Sun Goes Down," the crowd sang along in a full-throated roar.

Along with those standard components, Chesney played other favorites (the vaguely Stonesy "Big Star") and stock-in-trade nostalgia trips ("Young," "I Go Back"). He also sprinkled in five songs from last year's "Hemingway's Whiskey." A solo acoustic rendition of "You and Tequila" provided a nice change of pace. And he took a new tack to close the pre- encore portion of the show via his football romance, "The Boys of Fall" (with video of a string of coaches -- Madden, Parcells, and Dungy, among them -- offering pearls of wisdom over the song's extended lead-out).

Chesney added a bit of a twist to the encore, too, by bringing the Zac Brown Band onstage to help close the show. Brown and company played an extended set of their own that at times -- like on the beach-bumming "Toes," for example -- mirrored the predilections of the headliner. But the band also added jammy, fiddle- laced country, breakneck cowpunk, Southern rock, and rootsy pop songs evocative of Hootie and the Blowfish.

Together, Chesney and Zac Brown Band ran through Alabama's "Dixieland Delight" and an old Chesney favorite, "The Joker," and culminated in Tom Petty's "Running Down a Dream." Chesney has shown this sort of generosity toward openers in the past, but sharing the stage for virtually all of the encore, including its finale? He must really like these guys.

Stuart Munro can be reached at sj.munro@verizon.net.

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