Thursday, July 5, 2012

Blisters in the Sun

Brothers (and Sister) of the Sun: Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Grace Potter, Heinz Field June 30, 2012

Heinz Field - great place to see a show
Early in Tim McGraw’s set, the woman sitting next to me leaned over and asked “do you think he goes tanning?”

The man in white
The Inky Jukebox opens with this because it seems to sum up something very interesting about the Brothers of the Sun tour — those compatriots being the aforementioned Mr. McGraw and his longtime pal Kenny Chesney. Billed as a co-headliner, the tour (and everyone attending it) nevertheless implicitly understands that there is no parity here — all is not equal under this particular sun. McGraw is opening for Chesney, and anyone who doubts that ought to come out and see for themselves.

A tanned Tim McGraw in his Christian Grey jeans
But back to the tanning. She asked this because of the deep chestnut color of McGraw’s skin, which was emphasized nicely by his choice of all-white, tight-fitting clothing. Surely this is a shade not achieved in nature? We do not think McGraw goes tanning, no. Not in the way she envisioned, in any case. Does McGraw care about his tan, however? Hells yes. The difference between McGraw and Chesney is that Chesney popped out of his center-stadium podium in a sleeveless grey shirt with a small sweat stain already darkening it — a few songs later it was soaked through. Did he change it? No.

Honey Badger don't care about being sweaty
It was odd seeing McGraw do his set in the sunlight — after years of closing shows in the prime spotlight, it was a bit sad to see him deliver “Live Like You Were Dying” without the dramatic assistance provided by darkness and lighting. (And by "sunlight," we mean scorching 100 degree solar glare. Hence the aptness of their cover of "Blister In The Sun.") His set was also weighted with too many unfamiliar tracks — ending with his new single “Truck, Yeah,” which is far too easy to simply call “Truck, NO.”

But lo, what light from yonder spotlight breaks? Why, 'tis a brother of the sun 
Add to that the fact that there were still too many yellow seats waiting for their tailgaters and the sheer volume of the crowd once Chesney appeared, and you got the feeling that the torch had been passed — and not just on this tour, but perhaps years ago.

Bring your beach balls, y'all
This show marked a historic precedent, which was marked by the presentation of an iron plaque celebrating Chesney’s sixth straight sold out show at Heinz Field. This is notable because although Chesney is obviously a friend of football, and has made stadiums his own stages all across the country, it genuinely feels as if the Heinz crowd responds in a special way. Perhaps this is also because Chesney has the gift of actually sounding genuine when he speaks to the crowd. It goes a very long way.

Raucous, drunken crowd enjoying the show
Chesney also knows a very significant thing about his audience: we come to have a good time, and to hear his greatest hits. This, he delivers, one after another, the entire show.

In the morning he'll be leaving, taking himself off to Cleveland, but for now he's mine, all mine

It is bookended by “Beer In Mexico” and “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” the opening violin strains of which whip the crowd into a frenzy.

Where's Kenny?
But the awesome spectacle of a Kenny Chesney concert was not necessarily the highlight of the evening — it was Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Because they haven’t had a hit single, and folks only really know of Potter through her duet “You and Tequila” with Chesney, it seemed odd that she would go on after Jake Owen, who has had numerous hits. But as soon as Potter strutted out on stage dressed in what looked like a low-cut black bathing suit and flimsy wrap, her ridiculously long legs amped up on heels, singing by herself, unaccompanied — the half-full stadium immediately sat up and paid attention. Her entrance was astonishing — as was the entire set, where she played keyboards, a sweet Flying V, and drums, all the while delivering a husky-voiced blistering serving of blues rock. By the time she shook her stuff to ZZ Top’s “Tush,” The Inky Jukebox was sold. What was this girl like in high school? Wow.

Country girls and boys gettin' down on the stage

Kenny Chesney delivers nothing but monster hits

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