Chesney and Urban rock Gillette

A review of teh New England Country Music Festival with Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, and more at Gillette Stadium on July 26, 2008

, Editor-in-Chief

Once again, Kenny Chesney delivered a stellar show before a sold-out crowd at Gillette Stadium as part of the 5th annual& New England Country Music festival. The dynamic and engaging entertainer stayed true to his formula, arguably too much so at some points, during a show that was high on energy and filled with hits. With an impressive cast of opening talent, most notably Keith Urban, the show lived up to expectations as one of the best of this summer.

Clad in a Boston Red Sox t-shirt, Chesney rose from a platform at the top of a catwalk that jetted out into the field to kick things off with “Live Those Songs Again”, a fitting opener considering that the top heavy set list followed with his standard party anthems that dominate the start of most shows, “Summertime”, “Beer in Mexico”, and “Keg in The Closet”. The capacity crowd roared with approval throughout the show, even if most could predict what would follow.

Always the showman, Chesney worked all ends of the massive stage and its lengthy catwalks with never-ending energy. From his Buffett-like beach time favorites like “No Shoes, No Shirts, No Problem” and “Shiftwork” through the arena (ahem, stadium) rockers “I Go Back” and “Living In Fast Forward”, sing-alongs were abundant, giving ample opportunities for fans to relish in their own personal favorites from the Tennessee native’s lengthy career. Of course “Back Where I Come From” was a crowd favorite thanks again to a video montage of Boston landmarks and our beloved sports teams. Some members of Titletown represented their teams well with Patriots Teddy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and Wes Walker as well as Red Sox Tim Wakefield and Mike Timlin joining Chesney on stage for the song and later during an impromptu cover song.

When Chesney strayed from his standard formula, he delivered the show’s more memorable highlights. “Guitars and Tiki Bars” and “Got A Little Crazy Last Night” were both pleasant surprises. “Wild Ride”, “Don’t Blink”, “Never Wanted Nothing More” were standouts from his latest album, Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates, released last fall. “She’s From Boston” has become a staple for the Foxboro shows, and the sing-along for the deep cut was just as loud as it was for hit “How Forever Feels”, which closed out the main set. With the clock showing past 11 p.m., he still returned with just as much energy for a two song encore of “Anything But Mine” and the standard closing anthem “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”.

By the time Keith Urban hit the stage, the stadium was nearly full, and the crowd was awarded with a fantastic set by the Aussie country-rocker. Urban is a rare commodity in country music in that he’s an exceptional guitarist. He made it clear right at the start by displaying his impressive fretwork on opener “Days Go By”, onto “Where The Blacktop Ends” and finally “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me”, the latter of which found Urban signing an autograph by taking a sharpie to his mouth while at the same time delivering one of his many solos.

Only a few weeks after the birth of his first child, Urban was in great spirits, as was his band who were exceptionally tight. Simplicity was the theme through a set that lasted an all to brief 70 minutes as Urban let the music do the talking. “Stupid Boy” was stellar while “Better Life” also shined brightly. Perhaps most notably was Urban’s ability to draw intimacy in the massive stadium with a pair of stunning acoustic renditions. First, by himself on “Raining on A Sunday” and then with his band though a “You’ll Think Of Me”. A rocking run through “Somebody Like You” brought Urban’s set to a close but not without fans wishing he had more time.

Sammy Hagar’s opening set was just as expected, a mix-bag. The former Van Halen-frontman opened his set with “I Can’t Drive 55”, off his solo release. At 60-years old, Hagar is still a goofball and had fun on stage while waitresses served him Margaritas (surely made with his own signature tequila) that he also shared with the crowd. “Standing On Top Of The World”, the lone Van Halen tune played, was certainly a crowd favorite but fell flat.& “I Love This Bar”, a song he co-wrote with Toby Keith, faired better as did “Eagles Fly”. The surprise highlight came during cover of Beastie Boy’s “Fight For Your Right” which led to set closer “Mas Tequilla”.

LeAnn Rimes’ set was full of the best vocals of the day. The 25-year old songtress was right at home with soaring signature ballads like “How Do I Live” and “Blue”. Still, she proved she could take it up a notch and still delight with fast-tempos “Something’s Gotta Give” and “Can’t Fight The Moonlight”. Other highlights came off her new album, Family, including “Nothing Better To Do” and the title track. Last year she spent the summer playing more intimate venues like the Melody Tent but Rimes managed the massive stage well, using all ends of the catwalks to interact with the crowd. Playing to the crowd even more, she even threw on a Tom Brady jersey over her black sundress, claiming that the Patriots were “the cutest team” she had ever seen. She closed her set with a fun cover of Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me”.& &

Also on the bill was Gary Allen but with an early set-time, most concert-goers were still partying the parking lot with a tailgate that Chesney later said was “the best tailgating of the tour every year.”

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