| So what happens when one of the biggest stars
in modern day plastic country comes to one of the coolest clubs in the
things get interesting. First off, Kenny Chesney is mega. Last year, he
was behind only Bruce Springsteen and Dave Matthews in concert ticket sales. Hes
just put out a new record, though, and before he heads back to the sheds, he wanted to
get back to basics. So the Knoxville boy decided to do a few low-key shows for
charity (This show benefited Nucis Space), hand picked a few college towns to do
em in and dubbed it the Keg In The Closet Tour.
Ive got to tell you; I only expected the worst. I love country music but I hate what is called country these days. My initial exposure to Chesney was a God-awful tune called She Thinks My Tractors Sexy needless to say; my initial exposure was my last. I didnt feel like there were going to be any surprises when his band took to the stage and opened with a handful of watered down covers (Pride And Joy, Crossroads, etc.). By the time Kenny strolled out (big ol cowboy hat and all), I was ready to leave. Strangely at about twenty minutes in, I began to notice that I did not, to my utter surprise, hate it. Maybe it was Chesneys down to earth personality, but as he strolled through 45-straight minutes of massive country hits, I warmed to him. By the time he hit The Good Stuff, I was getting it. Sure, it was schmaltzy. But the way it connected with the audience so squarely is still worth something.
| The crowd
was more and more responsive, too frequently interrupting the show with chants of
UGA, UGA! Kenny just smiled and joined in. No problems. Before long, actual
Georgia Bulldogs climbed on the stage to help Kenny out. As football players
gathered around mics, this was really beginning to feel like a house party. Wow!
When Uncle Kracker showed up to duet on the new single When The Sun Goes Down, things really got weird. After shooting the video for the song (which required lots of girls dressed like hula dancers), Kenny and Kracker launched into an hour of crowd favorites, like a well seasoned cover band, they led the us through Krackers hits (Drift Away, Follow Me) and then detoured into a free for all that found them covering John Mellencamp, Kid Rock, Tom Petty, Tommy Tutone and even doing a faithful reading of U2s With Or Without You. By now, even the 40 Watt staff was developing a soft spot for the performer. Every time a new song would start, youd see their collective smile get broader. Still you cant possibly imagine the looks on the faces of the doubters when Kenny, Kracker and crowd slid from the honky tonk sleaze of David Allan Coes You Never Even Called Me By My Name into an amped up version of Violent Femmes Blister In The Sun without even a hint of musical whiplash. Surely, this is a sign of the approaching apocalypse. If so, the end will be much more fun than I had always imagined it would be.
By the end of the night, Kenny Chesney and Uncle Kracker had put on a Hell of a fun show, shot a video, completely satisfied the audience, made some new friends, changed some perceptions and made a wad of money for a great charity.
Lets see Guided By Voices do that.
(Chris McKay / concertshots.com)