“This song is about a girl who had a dream and followed it,” Kenny Chesney tells a hometown crowd during Live in No Shoes Nation, his newly released concert album. “I know from living in this town for so many years that there’s a lot of girls out there in the audience with a lot of dreams in their head. This song goes out to you, alright?”
With that, Chesney and his road band rip into “Big Star.” The song first hit the airwaves in 2003, back when its singer was building his way toward stadium-headliner status. More than a dozen years later, it still sounds fresh, thanks in part to a surprise appearance by Taylor Swift. She joins the band during the second verse, swapping lead duties with Chesney — who tapped the singer as the opening act on his Flip-Flop Summer Tour in 2007, less than a year after her debut album’s release — and stacking her voice into each harmony-rich chorus.
Live in No Shoes Nation sources its 29 songs from a decade’s worth of concerts and tours, shining a light not on any particular show, but on Chesney’s long-running status as a summertime draw. There’s a duet with Dave Matthews from 2007, a beachside performance of “Flora-Bama” from the Florida/Alabama border and an emotional version of “Boston,” performed at the Patriots’ home stadium and dedicated to the medical professionals who helped heal the city in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. Meanwhile, “Big Star” was taped during the opening date of the 2015 Big Revival Tour, with a sold-out audience of 28,682 fans screaming in the background. Better still, the show fell on Chesney’s 47th birthday.
“A lot of people showed up to help me celebrate,” he says in the teaser video above, listing Uncle Kracker, Joe Walsh and David Lee Murphy as some of the evening’s guests. “But what would birthdays be without surprises? That night, my friend Taylor Swift showed up on my birthday to surprise me. . .[and it] was ironic because in a lot of ways, that song and that lyric is Taylor’s journey.”
Listen to the Live in No Shoes Nation version of “Big Star” – a performance that celebrates two of the 21st century’s biggest concert draws – below.