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Chesney defies age

Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD, August 22, 2018

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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Earlier this year, Kenny Chesney turned 50. You might expect the singer/songwriter, who often appears to be the second coming of Jimmy Buffett thanks to his penchant for songs about summer fun and island living, to be starting to throttle back a bit at this age. But like Buffett, who is constantly on the road, Chesney showed no signs of slowing down as he the commanded a massive audience of rabid fans from the stage.

The evening started with a spirited, but sentimental set by Old Dominion. The five-piece enjoyed more applause than your typical opener, including crowd sing-alongs on hits like "Song For Another Time," "Hotel Key," "Break Up With Him" and the laid-back "Written In The Sand," a sign that No Shoes Nation, the moniker given to Chesney's considerable following, has truly embraced the band over its time on tour.

Chesney and his six-piece supporting band took the stage with "Beer In Mexico," a pitch-perfect opening salvo in terms of both theme and energy. The diminutive Chesney, decked out in a gray tank top, jeans and his signature wide-brimmed straw hat, more than filled Merriweather's stage with kinetic stage work and his larger-than-life performing personality.

Mid-tempo rockers "Reality," "Til It's Gone," "Summertime" and "Pirate Flag" kept the momentum rolling until the arrival of the first slower number, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems." Far from a ballad, this summer anthem with its relaxed pace offered the crowd its first opportunity to catch its breath - a welcome development on a night when nearly the entire venue, both inside the pavilion and up on the massive sloping lawn, stood for the entire show.

A mid-show highlight was "Save It For A Rainy Day" from 2014's "The Big Revival." Members of Old Dominion wrote this hit for Chesney and the band's Matthew Ramsey and Brad Tursi joined Chesney on stage. Although they've been playing this song together for some time, there was a little more emotional weight to this rendition because this was Old Dominion's last planned gig after three years as an opener for Chesney, as evidenced by the hugs and high fives that were passed around.

The latter portion of the show received some of the biggest responses of the night, particularly recent hits "All The Pretty Girls" and "American Kids," which included a huge sing-along chorus tagged on the end of the song.

On an evening of highlights, the only slight complaint was lack of songs from Chesney's recently-released "Songs For The Saints" album, one of his finest studio offerings in years. Only the lead single, the infectious "Get Along," made the setlist. The album was released in late July. and the overall vibe is much more laid back than his current high-octane stage show, so the omission is not entirely surprising.

Throughout the 22-song set, Chesney took No Shoes Nation on a tour of his 17-album catalog with stops at most of their favorite destinations. With no real breaks between songs and only the slightest of pauses before his "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" encore, Chesney displayed an enthusiasm and energy throughout that defies age.