For country superstar Kenny Chesney, summer seems to be a 12-month-a-year lifestyle.
For Minnesotans, summer is a state of mind, especially during this spring-is-missing year. Chesney, a usual July visitor to Target Field, landed in the indoor confines of U.S. Bank Stadium on Saturday. He proudly noted that it was the warmest day of the year in the metro (81 degrees at peak, but 63 at show time).
That doesn’t matter because, in concert, Chesney is sunnier than the Beach Boys, beachier than Jimmy Buffett and tanner than George Hamilton (hey, millennials, he’s the guy in the new KFC commercial). And, at 50, Chesney is more energetic than anyone in country music. On Saturday, he bounced, boogied and boot-scooted all over the runway extending from the stage. And when it came time to lead the 48,455 fans in a clap-along, he did it by doing jumping jacks.
His performance may have been more relentless, less hyper and more satisfying than any of his four shows at Target Field between 2012 and ’15. Except — and this is a big but — it depended on where you were sitting in the Vikings stadium. The sound quality varied vastly, something that was not an issue at the Twins ballpark.
During opening acts Old Dominion and Thomas Rhett on Saturday, it felt like the No Shirt, No Shoes, Sound Problems Tour. If you didn’t know the song, you could not have understood the lyrics. That’s too bad because the amiable Rhett was working hard to make his pop-soul songs connect, whether it was B-52s-evoking “Vacation,” the breezy soulful “Kiss Me Like a Stranger” or his ode to rejection, “Marry Me.”
If you were sitting in Section 333 in the top level of USBS, where Chesney said he sat earlier in the day to get into the spirit, well, the superstar’s energy definitely translated whether you were watching the stage or the giant video screens. As for the sound, well, everyone seemed to be singing along to every song, so maybe hearing Chesney’s vocals clearly wasn’t essential.
One less-than-happy concertgoer was standing at the back of the lower level. Will Schwartz, 22, of Lino Lakes, had abandoned his seats in an upper level for this vantage point. He said the sound was hopelessly echoy at both spots. “It was so much better last time at Target Field,” he said of Chesney. “So he can get more people in here. Is it worth it?”
Country’s stadium king drew about 4,000 more people at the Vikings venue than at the first of his two shows at the Twins field in 2015.
On the football field and on the sides close to the stage on Saturday, concertgoers had a more satisfactory sound experience. That made it easier to appreciate the guests, including Old Dominion for “Save It for a Rainy Day” and unadvertised David Lee Murphy for three songs, including his Chesney collaboration, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.” The megastar did one other duet, “Setting the World on Fire,” his recent hit with Pink but it was his bassist, Harmoni Kelley (who was wearing a Prince T-shirt), who sang Pink’s parts.
And, for an emotional high point, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer joined Chesney for some high fives at the end of the encore of “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.”
The two-hour set was heavy on feel-good hits, the kind of facile material that salutes nostalgia for earlier times (“Young”) and fun at all time (“Beer in Mexico,” “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems”). Chesney did offer his latest single, “Get Along,” the closest he’s come to social commentary as he gently urges us to inject love and positivity into our currently divisive society.
His stuff is seldom clever or mysterious or surprising. Chesney simply likes to celebrate how the sun makes you feel — happy. Hence, he calls this the Trip Around the Sun Tour. Happy tripping it was, indeed.