Country music star Kenny Chesney appeared to have injured himself during Saturday’s concert at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, but he finished the show.
Chesney headlined the six-hour, alcohol-soaked celebration that also included performances by Thomas Rhett, Old Dominion and Brandon Lay. Even so, Chesney may not have been the most popular person at the stadium — many of the more than 55,000 people in attendance mobbed beer vendors as if they were even bigger celebrities.
Opening with a video promoting his brand of rum, Chesney’s superb one-hour and 50-minute outing included several affectionate testimonials to booze as a tonic. The self-styled “hillbilly rock star” became one of the most consistent hit-makers of the past 25 years by specializing in songs about escapism.
Saturday’s concert was his sixth appearance at Arrowhead Stadium in the last eight years.
While performing “Reality,” a song that serves as Chesney’s statement of purpose, he sang “everybody needs to break free from reality … let the music take us away.” His admirers eagerly allowed Chesney to transport them to a carefree place in which sun, sand, cold drinks and warm kisses are the primary concerns.
Songs like “Beer in Mexico” caused Chesney to resemble the offspring of a hypothetical summer fling between beach bum troubadour Jimmy Buffett and crossover country star Shania Twain.
Reality reared its ugly head when Chesney, 50, injured himself.
While bounding across the expansive stage that housed a large band and three massive video screens displaying live and prerecorded footage, he appeared to tweak a knee or ankle.
Rather than spending the remainder of the evening indulging in his ingratiating knack for seeming less like a conventional entertainer than the most enthusiastic member of the audience, Chesney periodically doubled over in pain and gamely hobbled about in a small radius at the end of the stage’s walkway for the last hour of the show.
The intense heat may have played a role in the injury. He and Rhett were slathered in sweat as they performed. Unlike Chesney, Rhett makes little pretense of playing country.
Rhett is a country artist in the same way the Rolling Stones are a blues band. He’s moved well beyond his roots. A reading of “Unforgettable” represented pop perfection during his 70-minute effort. A particularly funky interpretation of “Make Me Wanna” was a rare disco song that involves a pickup truck.
The adequate opening sets by Old Dominion and Rhett were less momentous. Chesney said his performance was being recorded for release as a live album. If so, the document will capture an entirely worthy — albeit sweltering, boozy and intermittently painful — slice of contemporary country history.
Kenny Chesney set list: Beer In Mexico; Reality; Til It’s Gone; Summertime; Pirate Flag; No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems; Somewhere With You; I Go Back; Get Along; Anything But Mine; Save It for a Rainy Day; When the Sun Goes Down; All the Pretty Girls; Living in Fast Forward; Young; Noise; American Kids; Setting the World on Fire; Everything’s Gonna Be Alright; Dust on the Bottle; Party Crowd; How Forever Feels; She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.
Thomas Rhett set list: Leave Right Now; T-Shirt; Renegades; Get Me Some of That; Life Changes; Friends in Low Places; Craving You; Star of the Show; It Goes Like This; Make Me Wanna; Sixteen; Marry Me; Unforgettable; Vacation; Die a Happy Man; Crash and Burn.