Pitch-perfect tone at Target Field

Target Field delivered Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and 40,000 fans for its first music bash.

Newly wedded bliss swept through Target Field on Sunday, and not just from the near-perfect marriage between the ballpark and its first mega-concert.

Stillwater native Lyndsey Thomas arrived for the Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw show in the flowing white dress she wore to her wedding -- just the day before.

"We're spending our honeymoon with Kenny and Tim," gushed Lyndsey. She and her new husband, Dylan, both 21, carried in a sign requesting McGraw play "My Best Friend," the first-dance song from their wedding reception.

It was the biggest concert of the summer -- and, barring a miracle playoff run -- probably the biggest crowd at the Twins' ballpark this season. The two country music stars and running buddies ran together across the length of their stage's massive runway, which extended from center field to third base.

Although the layout of the ballpark Sunday featured seats on the field and beer stands in the dugouts, the 40,000 music fans voiced the same ecstatic reception as baseball fans did when the ballpark first opened in 2010.

"We've seen a lot great games here already, and this is as awesome as a lot of those," said Brandon LaBarre and Kelly Quinn of St. Paul, who snagged the same corner spot on the limestone wall's corner where they stand during many Twins games.

"It's a beautiful place, and great setting for a concert," said Jeannie Palmer of Eden Prairie, one of many first-timers at the ballpark.

Jeannie's husband, Nick, also wanted to be there, but he is serving in Afghanistan with the Army Reserves -- so she and her friends carried a cardboard cutout of him to their seats. "Hopefully he can go to the next one," Palmer said.

After Sunday's concert, it's probably more a matter of when, not if, the next one will come to Target Field.

Twins officials said they could see concerts becoming an annual event at the ballpark. They would not reveal the financial rewards of their first show, but the estimated ticket sales were near $4 million, and concession sales -- especially light beer and bucket-served Bacardi rum -- appeared to be a grand slam.

The concert's ripple effect was well felt outside the ballpark, too. By 2 p.m., fans had packed the nearby patios at Kieran's Pub and Seven Sushi, which hosted the competing K102 and BUZ'N 102.9 country radio station pre-parties. Even the Depot Tavern, the bar and grill attached to First Avenue rock club, was packed early and ready to go -- save for one minor change-up.

"We had to change the iPod to country," said operations manager Damon Barna.

Sipping tallboy beers at the Depot, brothers Bill and Lenny Sonterre were excited to see two of their favorite singers, but especially about their first Target Field concert.

"My sisters got to go see the Beatles at Met Stadium in 1965, but I didn't. So this is kind of my thing to brag about," said Bill, 61.

There was plenty of excitement from the stage, too.

"It's a fantastic stadium," McGraw said a few songs into his set, adding, "I love baseball." Later, he invited up a fan wearing the No. 45 jersey of former Philadelphia Phillies reliever Tug McGraw (Tim's late father).

"I can't tell you how honored we are to be at the home of the Minnesota Twins, and to be the first concert in this wonderful stadium," Chesney later yelled to fans.

While McGraw and Chesney played to a packed house, opening acts Jake Owen and Grace Potter each faced a half-empty field as many fans pushed out into the concourses and shaded seats to get out of the blazing late-afternoon sun. By Chesney's show-closing set -- capped off by a finale duet with McGraw -- the stage's backdrop turned into a shining city skyline and starry night.

"This is the perfect kind of summer concert," said Jeff Corbett, 50, of Eagan as he hoped the beachcomber Chesney would get to his hit "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems," "and a perfect place for it."

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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