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Chesney knows how to throw a party

Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, July 27, 2013

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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In the relatively recent past, Kenny Chesney concerts found the highly popular country artist looking just a little thunderstruck in front of large live audiences. He seemed to still be in awe of his own success. Not so during the Anaheim stop for his No Shoes Nation tour, however. When he kicked off his set with Feel Like A Rock Star, Chesney was wearing a big smile on his face. And that smile never left for the approximately two hours he was on stage.

It's essential for party hosts to appear happy, and make no mistake about it, a Kenny Chesney concert IS a party. Songs like Pirate Flag and Beer in Mexico came early in the set in front of an audience collectively equipped with tall cans of beer. Taking a cue from Feel Like A Rock Star, Chesney's first five songs, indeed, rocked with plenty of heavy bass and thick, electric guitar. It wasn't until No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem came along that some real country fiddle was heard. Chesney knew his audience wanted to party - loud.

It's a little unfortunate that Chesney concerts rarely reveal his more sensitive side. Unlike, say, Brad Paisley (who is equal in star power), Chesney doesn't really try much to mix tender tunes with his party anthems. Yet when he did, notably with You And Tequila, it was extremely effective. Performing the song on a relatively beat up acoustic guitar, Chesney stretched out the song just a little longer, simply because he was really feeling it this night.

Other highlights included Come Over, which Chesney introduced (and rightfully so) as a "classy booty call song," which was accompanied by an extremely sexy video. In this video, as with most all video accompaniments, boats, bodies of water and partiers played a big role. Chesney has set himself up as a necessary party favor, along with beverages and good company, and tonight he played the perfect host.

The last time Eric Church came through town, he performed at the relatively sedate Nokia Theatre. He seemed much more in his element in front of this large and rowdy stadium crowd, however. He opened with the swampy Creepin' and filled the stadium with about as much energy as an Angels 'rally monkey' rally. Oh, and he really encouraged drinking. He borrowed a couple of those tall cans for a, shall we say, 'drinking demonstration' during Drink In My Hand and downed some Jack during Jack Daniels. Church didn't sing many quieter songs, although he did perform Like Jesus Does and closed with Springsteen. During the latter, he even threw in a few lines from Springsteen's own Born To Run. Also, the fact that it was actually "On a July Saturday night," was not lost on this audience, as he and the crowd sang it particularly loud when he came to that point in the song.

Although they performed admirably, the Eli Young Band seemed just a little too eager to prove they truly belonged at such a big concert event. Young took a lot of time introducing songs, when should have just been singing them to a crowd that already liked them. Their set list included the hits Crazy Girl and Even If It Breaks Your Heart, and the band's new single, Drunk Last Night.

When Kacey Musgraves hit the stage at 5 p.m. she, unlike a few of the other headliners, truly needed her sunglasses to face the sun beaming over the stadium stands. She sang her version (of her original) Mama's Broken Heart, as well as the hit Merry Go 'Round. She even convinced the audience to sing along with Follow Your Arrow. With only a half-hour to impress a sweaty crowd, Musgraves made the best of a tough situation.

As a festival-like concert, there really wasn't a dud performer in this lineup. So you can safely say Kenny Chesney sure knows how to throw a good party.