Forgive Kenny Chesney if he’s a little hoarse at his second of two sold-out shows at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena tonight. With two decades’ worth of hits deserving the Big Revival Tour spotlight, the country superstar kept the music playing at Thursday night’s extravaganza into the wee hours of the morning — and as if it were his last show on earth.
“There’s gonna be a lot of people late to work tomorrow,” he said some two and a half hours into his more than three-hour, 37-song set (38 if you count “Happy Birthday,” which was serenaded to Chesney — who turned 47 on Thursday — during the encore).
Chesney kicked off his first tour in two years with a fitting (and instructional) song for the shrieking audience: “Drink It Up.” And though the new tune, from 2014’s The Big Revival, hasn’t made it onto country radio (yet), it was sung back to him, word for word. He followed with hit after uptempo hit, including “Reality,” “Summertime,” “Pirate Flag” and “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem.” And 10 songs in, the first of five famous friends came out to surprise concertgoers — and it was one helluva surprise when country-gone-pop megastar, Taylor Swift emerged from the audience to join her friend on stage. Repaying a 4-year-old favor — Chesney surprised Swift’s 2011 audience at Bridgestone — she joined him on “Big Star,” which sounds like it could’ve been written about her.
“She doesn’t care anymore that her high school girlfriends cut her down/The only thought she entertains is where they are and where she is now,” the 25-year-old singer belted as she pranced the catwalk.
Grace Potter was the second surprise, joining her duet partner (who was clad in a Grace Potter & the Nocturnals T-shirt) for their free-spirited single, “Wild Child.” She returned again at the encore to trade lines and licks on their Grammy-nominated “You and Tequila.” That was one of very few ballads on the set-list, joining tunes such as the nostalgic “Old Blue Chair” — played per fans’ requests — and emotional “There Goes My Life.”
David Lee Murphy — whom Chesney introduced as the “original hillbilly rockstar,” borrowing a line from a song Murphy wrote for him, “Living in Fast Forward” — brought the tempo up a notch with his classic hits, “Dust on the Bottle” and “Party Crowd.” Murphy has written several songs for Chesney over the years, including “Pirate Flag” and “Til It’s Gone.”
Another longtime Chesney collaborator was the fourth special guest of the evening: Uncle Kracker. Sticking around for four songs, the pop-rapper accompanied the country star on their big hit together, “When the Sun Goes Down,” as well as his own “Drift Away” and “Follow Me” and a cover of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy.”
After closing the show solo with his ode to football, “Boys of Fall,” Chesney didn’t take long to come back for the encore and blow his adoring fans away with one more special guest: Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Joe Walsh, of Eagles fame. Peppered with several guitar solos, the two friends’ duets included “Rocky Mountain Way,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” “Life’s Been Good” and appropriate show closer, “All Night Long.”
“See you tomorrow!” Chesney said before signing a few autographs for salivating front-row fans and then calling it a night… and an incredibly memorable birthday.
Kenny Chesney’s The Big Revival Tour — Opening Night Set List:
“Drink It Up”
“Beer in Mexico”
“Keg in the Closet”
“Til It’s Gone”
“No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem”
“Big Star” (with Taylor Swift)
“Somewhere With You”
“I Go Back”
“Wild Child” (with Grace Potter)
“Old Blue Chair”
“Living in Fast Forward”
“Whole Lotta Rosie”
“Anything But Mine”
“There Goes My Life”
“How Forever Feels”
“Dust on the Bottle” (with David Lee Murphy)
“Party Crowd” (with David Lee Murphy)
“Never Wanted Nothing More”
“When the Sun Goes Down” (with Uncle Kracker)
“Follow Me” (with Uncle Kracker)
“Cowboy” (with Uncle Kracker)
“Drift Away” (with Uncle Kracker)
“Don’t Happen Twice”
“Out Last Night”
“Boys of Fall”
“You And Tequila” (with Grace Potter)
“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”
“Rocky Mountain Way” (with Joe Walsh)
“Life in the Fast Lane” (with Joe Walsh)
“Life’s Been Good” (with Joe Walsh)
“All Night Long” (with Joe Walsh)