The End of Kenny Chesney

The End of Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney stood in the open air!

He stood in the open air, looking at the stars, and told the crowd when his tour was booked “this was a night off.” Having played Charleston, South Carolina the night before, Chesney swept through the darkness and brought his I Go Back 2023 Tour to The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama a day early. For the 8-time Entertainer of the Year, drenched in sweat by the second song, it was almost unthinkable this show was able to happen; never in the storied venue’s history was a show announced, on sale Monday of show week and practically sold out in a handful of days.

“We usually close it down with a double,” Chesney laughed backstage. “You have the two nights to come to terms with the fact that this – the magic of the band, the way No Shoes Nation brings it so hard, being together – really is over. How it feels when the buses roll home, or the planes take off for my fly guys, that last time is bittersweet. So, this gives us that two show moment to accept what’s coming.

“And Orange Beach, the people who come for Memorial Day, they’re so much like my family and my friends growing up. They love the coastline and being together and music. For them, this is a vacation and being together, but it’s also letting off steam, having fun and remembering how great life can be. So, No Shoes Nation, part of our road family, are here to celebrate this with us, too.”

Echoing that sentiment, Chesney created a special montage for the tour’s special guest Kelsea Ballerini. During their multiple CMA- and ACM Award-winning “half of my hometown,” he’d had his video team cut together a very special montage with pictures of Ballerini growing up in East Tennessee, as well as photos of her from the tour. Spinning the ACM Female Vocalist nominee around so she could see the images, a picture of her at the top of Neyland Stadium palpably cracked the always poised singer.

“I didn’t mean for her to cry,” says the man the Los Angeles Times called “The People’s Superstar” of Ballerini’s reaction. “But I wanted that moment in that song – about leaving and doing what people think is crazy, and everyone has an opinion, and it’s so scary when you’re a kid driving west – to really sink in. It’s not just how far she’s come, but it’s her heart and the way she’s not just making her dream, but a whole lot of little girls’ dreams come true. I wanted her to see it, and understand the power of what we do, what she means… and like the girl in ‘Big Star,’ it only comes with hard work, great songs and believing.”

Telling the crowd, “Some of these songs we don’t play very often, so if you know’em better than we do, sing’em with us.” Beyond the obvious striding homage to the biggest bar on the Alabama/Florida border “Florabama” and escaping the chores and routines “Coastal,” Chesney brought the energy down and captivated No Shoes Nation with a close-to-the-heart “Old Blue Chair.” Originally written about his escape to the Caribbean islands, “Old Blue Chair” has come to embrace any refuge where the water meets the shore – and the crowd sang along as if intoning an almost holy prayer.

As the only country artist in Billboard’s Top 10 Touring Acts of the Last 25 Years for the last 14 years, I Go Back’s let Chesney get back to his roots and play those arenas in markets where he found his voice and started singing songs for people like him. That passion defined No Shoes Nation, resulting in No Shoes Radio being named and launched from the parking lot of the open-air Wharf Amphitheater in 2009.

Photo Credit: Allister Ann

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