The first time Kenny Chesney headlined Xcel Energy Center, he had an epiphany.
"I was nervous, I was scared, I didn't know if I was doing the right thing," he recalled of that January 2003 concert. "I didn't know if I was going to be able to continue to do this. And the band and I were onstage that night and it was as loud as I ever heard it. I looked back at the band and they looked at me and it was just a moment of recognition. It was like: 'Omigod, this might just happen for us.'"
In 2008, he flew to the Twin Cities to see Bruce Springsteen at Xcel. After meeting the Boss backstage, the country superstar walked out into the arena and, sure enough, "I thought about that moment of being up there onstage," he said.
Chesney vividly recalls celebrating his 37th birthday at Xcel in '05 when opening act Gretchen Wilson brought a humongous margarita onstage and sang "Happy Birthday" Marilyn Monroe-style.
"And the Minnesota Golden Gopher was backstage," he remembered. "That was an unbelievable night. I'm really glad that I didn't drink that margarita."
He can't believe that it's been four years since he's performed at the X. "For a while it was a constant for us. I don't why it's been four years. It's been too long. And we're there the night before my birthday this year. We may play till midnight and that way it'll be my birthday again."
Given his fondness for the X, would Chesney ever considering playing a stadium show in the Twin Cities?
"I'd never say never," he said. "I love the idea of doing that one day. The Xcel Center has always been so good to us, the energy has been great. It's always felt like the place to play. Sometimes you're just better to stay where you're supposed to be, where people are used to hearing music."