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Concert Reviews:
Kenny Chesney And Country Friends Rock At Ford Field
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- The 44,836 Kenny Chesney fans leaving Ford Field on Saturday night were doing something not often seen from crowds leaving Lions football games.

Smiling.

They had good reason, of course. Chesney and his A-list support acts put on a winner of a festival on Saturday, a six-and-a-half-hour marathon of contemporary country -- and even longer day for those who attended free shows starting in the late morning at Ford Field's parking lot and Campus Martius. Detroit Rock City became Detroit Twang City as 10-gallon hats mingled with backwards baseball caps and two-fingered devil's horn salutes were flashed by both sides.

To say it was a rockin' good time was no understatement -- literally. Saturday's bill was a case study in the blurred lines between rock and country, whether it was the rock hits played on P.A. between acts or some of the covers performed by the artists themselves. Self-proclaimed "Redneck Woman" Gretchen Wilson lit up her pyrotechnic-laden set with Heart's "Barracuda" and Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog." Dierks Bentley played the first verse and chorus of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" as the introduction to his own "Come a Little Closer," and "American Idol" champ Carrie Underwood bolstered her one-album repertoire with Guns 'N Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine."

But the day's biggest rock star was Chesney, who won his second consecutive Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year award in May and whose stadium-sized drawing power -- including Saturday's near-capacity turnout at Ford Field -- further attests to a dominant level of popularity. With its energy and visual flash, a Chesney show is also a rock 'n' roll kind of experience, drawing, much like Garth Brooks before him, from stage conventions that hearken back to the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and others who have mastered the art of playing on a big scale.

Chesney has definitely joined their ranks, throwing a bit of Jimmy Buffett's beach party stylings into the mix as well. The 38-year-old singer, sporting his trademark black cowboy hat and a sleeveless Springsteen T-shirt, kicked things off Saturday with the houselights still up, emerging on a raised platform towards the rear of the stadium floor singing, appropriately, "Summertime," before being led to the main stage for a pounding version of "Live These Songs," continually working ramps on the sides and front that brought him closer to the crowd.

As Saturday's show was part of The Road & the Radio Tour, Chesney worked in four songs from his latest album -- including "You Save Me," a gentle love song he told the audience he hadn't planned to start performing until 2007. Those were woven into his 95-minute set amidst older hits such as "Big Star," "Young," "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem," "I Go Back" and "How Forever Feels," while images of Detroit landmarks flashed onto the video screens during "Back Where I Come From."

Hometown hero Uncle Kracker -- along with daughters Madison and Skylar -- joined Chesney to recreate their chart-topping duet, "When the Sun Goes Down," as well as Kracker's own "Follow Me." Bentley -- whose acoustic rendering of his "Every Mile a Memory" was one of the day's highlights -- trooped back on at the end for "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy."

It was an energizing end to a long day of country, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anybody at Ford Field who succumbed to anything other than Chesney mania. And he was among their ranks, telling the crowd that "We've been coming to Detroit for many years. This is our best night ever." Hyperbole, yes, but also dead-on accurate.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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