ST. PAUL, Minn. --
Well, it happened. Favre's streak ended, Sloan retired and UConn did lose one game. And Chesney took his first extended hiatus from the road after eight consecutive summers of selling 1 million tickets per year. But the four-time CMA and ACM entertainer of the year is back.
This month, he started his Goin' Coastal tour, bound for 11 NFL stadiums and an arena or amphitheater near you. After a two-city warm-up in Florida, Chesney took Goin' Coastal where it's needed most -- the Snow Belt. On Friday (March 25) in St. Paul, he was greeted by 26 degrees and six inches of new snow that pushed this winter's total to the fourth highest ever in the Twin Cities.
And he had just what the Minne-snowtans needed -- a three-hour tour of hits, covers and tropical celebrations. (Yes, he was literally onstage for just seven minutes short of three hours.)
Chesney did not hide his affection for Xcel Energy Center, where he was performing for the eighth time in 10 years. He told the sell-out crowd of 15,927 he'd had an epiphany in the building the first time he headlined there back in 2003. He was nervous and uncertain if he and his band could hack it as headliners. Then when he heard the loudest noise he'd ever witnessed, he turned to the band and knew they wouldn't have to look back.
Of course, when hearing that, Friday's crowd responded with a thunderous ovation, which Chesney instantly pronounced louder than the original ear-splitting cheer.
Always hyperkinetic, Chesney seemed to have an extra bounce in his boot scootin' as he boogied across a cross-shaped runway that extended from the stage. In fact, he spent most of the night on the runway. His seven-man band (no horns this tour) was stationed on the main stage with a giant video wall behind them projecting live shots, music video clips, historic footage and photos and splashy, colorful artsy patterns.
As always, Chesney started at full gallop when the curtain went up, tearing through "Live a Little," "Reality,"
Oh, it wasn't exactly lonely onstage. Chesney occasionally featured his sidemen, especially fiddler-guitarist Nick Hoffman. He had plenty of runway time for solos -- because he always does and because he's from the Twin Cities, where he was greeted with an extra-loud ovation before Chesney proclaimed "Nick Hoffman from Minneapolis."
While a Chesney concert invariably feels like a Corona-fueled party in overdrive, there were a few moments Friday to suggest that maybe the eternal frat boy is maturing. (And I'm not talking about the omission of "Keg in the Closet.") During a brief acoustic set, he performed the Mexican-flavored ballad "This Life" and
Before too long, Chesney brought out
Reality returned with Chesney's own "When I Close My Eyes" and the still-popular-after-all-these-years
Chesney encored with
Kracker and Currington warmed up the crowd. Kracker mixed in
Jon Bream is a music critic for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the author of biographies of Prince, Led Zeppelin and Neil Diamond.