Kenny Chesney Drops Surprises on 1st Night of “I Go Back Tour”
Kelsea Ballerini Joins 8-Time Entertainer of the Year for “Wild Child” & Their Award-Winning “half of my hometown”
When Kenny Chesney walked onstage at John Paul Jones Arena, it was one of the smallest venues he’s played in the past several years. But he rocked the 13,017 people as hard as any stadium show he’s played. Emerging to the sweeping “Til It’s Gone,” Chesney took the capacity crowd through 29 songs over the course of two-plus hours with all the energy and intensity that he’s built his career on.
By the fifth song – “Reality” – he had the crowd singing along at full volume, but the chorus of “everybody needs to break free” became a liberating mantra for families, young couples, teens at their first show and a few fans who’d been there for decades. The songwriter/superstar told the people he’d last played the venue when he opened the John Paul Jones Arena in 2006.
“It was a crazy thing,” he said backstage prior to the concert. “We pulled up and all of the Statler Brothers were there, and they watched the entire show from the third row. Charlottesville is that kind of place: the very best of who they are come out and just live in the music. I can’t believe we’ve been away this long.”
For Chesney, his I Go Back 2023 Tour is an opportunity to revisit many of the places, faces and memories he made along the way. Beyond putting some No Shoes Nation favorites back into his no holding back set – the ACM Single of the Year “The Good Stuff,” “Don’t Happen Twice” and “Beer Can Chicken” as a mash-up – Chesney spent the night moving back and forth across the T-shaped stage, high-fiving fans, leaning into his musicians and letting the players shine.
After a ferocious bass/drum trade-off by Harmoni Kelley and Nick Buda on “All The Pretty Girls” tumbled into an aggressive “Living In Fast Forward,” “Young” and “Noise,” Chesney cooled the crowd down by sliding into the chilled D-Sharp groove of “Wild Child.” As the chorus-swelled, special guest Kelsea Ballerini emerged from the wings in a red fringed top with matching red fringed stiletto knee high boots to sing Grace Potter’s signature ethereal harmonies.
Beyond some repartee about how they came to record the CMA Musical Event and Video winner “half of my hometown,” the chemistry between the two kids from Knox County showed the audience the power of common roots. Clearly enamored with the small towns they came from, both are examples to the power of dreams chased and realized.
“I wanted to bring all the power and all of the passion that we have at those stadium shows,” Chesney said post-show. “I want every single person who’s in the room to know how much we love them, to feel as good as they’ve ever felt and to go home hoarse from the cheering and singing. Charlottesville, Virginia sure made the opening night feel like the biggest stadiums.”
After one of 2022’s biggest tours in any genre – having the fifth biggest tour after Bad Bunny, Elton John, Mötley Crüe/Def Leppard and Harry Styles – Chesney believes in the collective energy of No Shoes Nation, wherever they are! Having hit No Shoes Radio live at 3 pm for their Live from the Tour Kick-Off remote, he was all in – and never stopped.
I Go Back 2023, with special guest Kelsea Ballerini, is presented by Blue Chair Bay® Rum.
Kenny Chesney I Go Back 2023 Tour:
March 25 University Park, PA Bryce Jordan Center
March 30 Wichita, KS INTRUST Bank Arena
April 1 Oklahoma City, OK Paycom Center
April 6 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena
April 8 Wilkes-Barre Township, PA Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
April 12 Birmingham, AL Legacy Arena at the BJCC
April 14 Jacksonville, FL Daily’s Place Amphitheater
April 16 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Tortuga Music Festival*
April 22 North Little Rock, AR Simmons Bank Arena
April 25 Lexington, KY Rupp Arena
April 27 Greenville, SC Bon Secours Wellness Arena
April 29 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum
May 4 Moline, IL Vibrant Arena at The Mark
May 6 Grand Rapids, MI Van Andel Arena
May 9 Grand Forks, ND Alerus Center
May 11 Sioux Falls, SD Denny Sanford Premier Center
May 13 Lincoln, NE Pinnacle Bank Arena
May 18 Fort Wayne, IN Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
May 20 Evansville, IN Ford Center
May 25 Charleston, SC Credit One Stadium
May 27 Orange Beach, AL The Wharf
June 23 Endicott, NY En-Joie Golf Course*
July 22 Des Moines, IA Hy-Vee Indy Race*
*festival / one-off show dates
Photo Credit: Allister Ann