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Concert Reviews:
Chesney Brings Happiness To Ford Field
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- Smiling faces are not the norm at Ford Field, at least not when people are leaving.

But this was no Detroit Lions game on Saturday night (Aug. 2). It was a Kenny Chesney concert -- what he noted is "almost becoming a tradition" in the Motor City -- and it was the kind of beer-hoisting country music party tailored to lift the spirits even as the near-capacity crowd was lifting spirits (preferably, of course, Corona beer, the sponsor of Chesney's Poets And Pirates Tour).

It was also an affair for the stalwarts, running six acts and more than seven hours. And by putting Chesney and Keith Urban on the same bill it also gave the fans a chance to A-B country's two hottest male stars of the moment.

It was more complementary than competitive, however -- not quite apples and oranges but definitely a case of two artists who, taken together, equal a sum greater than the total of their parts. And they were well set up by LeAnn Rimes, who preceded Urban and told the Ford Field faithful that she has "the best job ever this summer; it's me and a bunch of guys...a bunch of cute ones, at that." Rimes -- whose husband, Dean Sheremet, hails from the Detroit area? -- showed she can play with the boys, too, and maybe look better doing it in a spangled black mini-dress that she later covered with a custom-made Lions jersey and spent an hour-long set mixing in her own hits with covers of Janis Joplin's "Summertime" and Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me."

Urban, meanwhile, brought his own production, including a massive video screen behind him and his band, and a 65-minute collection of hits ranging from uptempo, rock-leaning gallops such as "Days Go By," "Where the Blacktop Ends," "You Look Good in My Shirt" and "Somebody Like You" to the melodic balladry of "Stupid Boy" and "Raining on Sunday" and a soulful rendition of "You'll Think of Me." Demonstrating plenty of instrumental virtuosity during his numerous guitar solos, Urban also worked the network of ramps that extended into the Ford Field floor and thanked fans for their good wishes after the birth of Sunday Rose, his month-old daughter with wife Nicole Kidman. It seemed a bit odd that Urban, who went through a well-publicized rehab in 2006, asked "how's your buzz kickin' in now?," but the fact of the matter was he left the crowd buzzing -- about his set and in anticipation of Chesney.

And, as is his wont, Chesney made good on that. Sporting a sleeveless Lions T-shirt and a straw cowboy hat, the frenetic singer upped his stage production a notch or two, with a more extensive video presentation and an expanded band whose four-piece horn section, including longtime Rolling Stones saxophonist Jim Horn, brought some extra muscle to favorites such as "Live Those Songs," a tandem of "Beer in Mexico" and "Keg in the Closet," "Big Star," "Living in Fast Forward" and "Young." "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems," defined Chesney's position as country's Jimmy Buffett, and he thanked radio programmers for supporting "Better as a Memory," the gentle and atypical chart-topper from earlier this year.

Chesney also had a couple of treats for fans on Saturday, too. He tossed the set list at one point to reach deeper into his catalog for gentle, piano-led arrangements of "The Woman With You" and "There Goes My Life." Then, two songs later, he brought on Detroiter and good pal Uncle Kracker to recreate their duet on a loose version of the 2004 hit "When the Sun Goes Down," then -- with former Howling Diablos guitarist Jeff Grand sitting in -- offered an even looser rendition of "The Joker," which slipped into a bit of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" as Chesney and Kracker vamped around on the ramps.

And when Chesney sang afterwards that "this is how forever feels," there was no doubt those at Ford Field will be happy to enjoy the "tradition" of his summer visit, if not forever than at least for a few more years.



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