Kenny Chesney was the big draw - there was no doubt about it. After all, in this day and age, where Chesney pretty much is guaranteed to do stadium shows, how cool is it to be able to see him in a club setting?
Yes, he has done his Beer Kegs in the Closet tour a few times hitting college area towns, but this was different, way different. Chesney, sporting a Red Sox hat (but I give him credit for not kissing up to the crowd and saying he was a Red Sox fan. Man is that annoying when artists do that), came out with an acoustic guitar. No cowboy hat. No jeans. Just regular khaki pants and a t-shirt.
And quite importantly, he was accompanied by other artists who also held acoustic guitars in hand. These were not particularly well known folks at all, but they we sure were to Chesney because as he told the sold-out crowd numbering at most 1,000 people that these were the folks who made him famous, in effect, because they were the songwriters.
That would include Bob DiPiero, Matraca Berg, Wendell Mobley, Craig Wiseman and Brett James.
Berg does have a recording career in her own right, and James once did with Arista, although his singles never went anyplace.
With DiPiero the emcee, sort of, this was a good old=fashioned guitar pull, which meant that the artists alternated every song. The beauty of it was that they often would talk about coming up with the songs. More than one writer "complained" that Chesney would call them up either on Christmas Eve or about 2 a.m. in the morning with a song idea. For James, that meant going down to the islands and hanging out with Chesney on Dec. 26 instead of being with his wife and four kids.
When James got to the Caribbean, he and Chesney hung out late at night. The result turned out to be the hit song Out Last Night.
For Chesney, this was not the same as being before 55,000 folks like he will be tonight and tomorrow night. Instead, it gave him a chance to reflect on the songs and writers and take it easy. He clearly had the best voice up there, although James wasn't far behind. He picked, added backing vocals and sometimes traded stanzas with the others. But at some level, that's why some of these guys are songwriters probably and not singers. Too bad for Wiseman - he may not have the look (he's big and burly) or the voice - but he sure writes excellent songs (perhaps no better than Live Like You Were Dyin' which was a highlight) and was quite humorous.
Chesney treated the fans to a truncated performance of She's From Boston as a post-encore song before calling it a night.
Let's give a big shot out to the Country Music Association for coming to Boston and basically making this a songwriter's tribute to Chesney. It worked great. The crowd was enthusiastic, and DiPiero said maybe they'd come back. Let's hope so for Boston's sake. This was one fun night thanks to six songwriters, among them one superstar.