Kenny Chesney packed 55,182 country music fans into Nissan Stadium Saturday night – enough to break the venue’s all-time attendance record set by One Direction in 2014.
The “Get Along” singer has gotten used to the view from the top this year. In addition to selling out Nissan Stadium with his Trip Around the Sun Tour, Chesney spent much of the summer with two songs in the Top 5 on country radio, both of which went to No. 1. Chesney’s duet with David Lee Murphy “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” topped the charts in May while “Get Along” became his record-breaking 30th No. 1 hit in August.
“When you get to this point in your career, you run out of firsts sometimes and that was definitely a first,” Chesney said of simultaneously having two songs in the Top 5 at country radio. “This has been a good summer for us on the radio.”
He’s felt the impact from the stage, calling the fan connection on the Trip Around the Sun Tour “unbelievable.“
“Not one night this year have I had to reach over the fence and pull them towards us,” Chesney said of the tour’s audience. “Every night they’ve jumped the fence and it’s beautiful.”
Nashville was no different.
Chesney’s 25-song, anthemic summer roadshow grabbed the audience by the ears and captivated them for two hours. While rain originally threatened the forecast, the only droplets in the air during the concert were from sweat and beer as people excitedly bounced in time with the music.
Chesney set the pace. A tanned, muscled dynamo in a straw hat, the singer launched his headlining set with “Beer in Mexico,” riling the audience with the feel-good party song while jumping and spinning across the stage.
“Reality” and “Til It’s Gone” followed before he paused a few beats to talk to his fans, dubbed the No Shoes Nation.
“I have not played this stadium in six years, and I apologize," he said. Nissan Stadium is one of 19 stadiums on his tour. “Let us take you by the hand and go with us. If you do, we’ll go all night long.”
He flowed into “Summertime,” “Pirate Flag,” “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem,” and crowd favorite “Somewhere with You.” Fans screamed the lyrics as Chesney spun around with his back the audience, grabbed the hem of his shirt and wrung out the sweat.
The sandbar, a standing-room-only area for more than 1,000 people around the front of the stage, was packed with dancing, drinking, happy fans all night long. During “I Go Back,” strangers formed circles, waved their arms, tossed their heads back and screamed the lyrics, a fan trend that only became more impassioned as the night wore on with “Anything but Mine.” Chesney’s charisma stretched to the back rows of the stadium where people bounced up and down, pointing their fingers in the air along with “Young.”
Chesney reintroduced his support acts Brandon Lay, Old Dominion and Thomas Rhett over the course of the night and welcomed David Lee Murphy to the stage. Lay and Old Dominion were charged with the sweltering task of amping up the stadium crowd before the sun went down. Lay has an easy presence and a distinct, Southern voice that glides through his songs as effortlessly as if slipping a note was an impossibility. Chesney brought Lay back out to share his encore: “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” Reigning Academy of Country Music vocal group of the year Old Dominion has a lockstep groove, hooky songs and a chain of hits including “Break Up with Him,” “Song from Another Time” and “Hotel Key” to back their pedigree as a band of Nashville’s hottest songwriters. Members Matthew Ramsey and Brad Tursi joined Chesney mid-set to help him sing “Save it for a Rainy Day,” which they helped write.
Rhett, who has blossomed as a performer, had the stage as the sun set. A radio angel and fan favorite for years, Rhett has fearlessly come into his own – managing the stadium crowd with more ease than he mustered at Ascend Amphitheater one year ago.
Chesney, who co-produced Murphy’s new album “No Zip Code,” shared three songs with Murphy: “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” and Murphy’s hits “Dust on the Bottle” and “Party Crowd.”
'I didn't even know to dream this'
But the night belonged to Chesney. The singer, who has spent much of the last year helping to rebuild the hurricane-ravaged Virgin Islands, seemed to savor each moment. Often a knowing-but-awed smile claimed his face as he put his hand over his heart.
Almost two hours into the show, Chesney still had the energy to spin across the stage to “How Forever Feels” as fans tracked his every move with the video recorders on their phones.
“Every night I just look out there and go, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know to dream this,’” Chesney said. “I was a kid in East Tennessee and I didn’t even know. It was impossible. For me and the band and everybody out there, it’s been a beautiful summer. We do not take it for granted. We know that not everybody gets to stand in that spot the way we do. We know we’re blessed. If you’re trapped in your phone, you swim in negativity. It would make me happy if I was the anecdote to all the negativity. I see a lot of love out there in the audience. I see a lot of positive energy. I see people having the time of their life.”