Hurricane Irene Proves to be No Match for the Goin’ Coastal Tour

Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour
Gillette Stadium – August 27, 2011
Zac Brown Band, Billy Currington, & Uncle Kracker
Final Night of the Tour

As most of the East Coast prepared for Hurricane Irene, 59,000 country music fans in Foxboro, Massachusetts, decided to hold off on dealing with the impending disaster.  Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, hosted the final night of Kenny Chesney’s Goin’ Coastal Tour.  While some of the show featured all out down-pours, the majority of the night, including all of Chesney’s set, was rain free.

After spending a few hours at the fun and impressive Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, which is located right next door to Gillette Stadium, we walked into the field level as Billy Currington was singing.  Billy sang the same set as I had seen a few weeks earlier at The New Meadowlands Stadium.  Billy has a ways to go with the energy and showmanship in his live performances, but his voice and songs carry him enough that he is still enjoyable.  Although I do not see him headlining a tour anytime soon, he was a good warm-up for the two powerhouses which followed. 

Zac Brown Band hit on all cylinders Saturday night.  I have seen them live several times and this was, indeed, one of their finest.  While Billy Currington and Kenny Chesney sang almost identicle sets from the previous shows, Zac Brown and his Band switched things up totally.  Yes, the hits such as “Toes”, “Highway 20 Ride”, “Free”, “Colder Weather”, and “Chicken Fried were played, but they also incorporated other cuts that were not released as single, but the fans knew nonetheless.  As the rain stormed down on the crowd, Zac bolted out “Jolene” with such passion and pain, that no one seemed to care about the weather. 

  Zac sang a new tune called “Sweet Anne” that seems to be destined for country radio supremacy.  And of course, Jimmy DeMartini, who I consider to be the best non-vocal musician in all of country music, shined on his multiple fiddle solo’s.  The Zac Brown Band’s cover of Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down To Georgie” is even better than the original.  Jimmy’s fiddle skills are particularly on display when the band does that song live.  The speed that his arm and wrist move at is absolutely remarkable.

What is very different from most bands is that although Zac Brown is clearly the leader and face of the Band, he lets his bandmates get their “shine on” as well.  For example, on this night, Zac let Clay Cook take the vocals on “Can’t See You Tonight”.  Clay’s vocals could be lead for any other band in the land and as the rain came down at its hardest of the night while he sang this song (originally recorded by Zac with Kid Rock), the crowd could truly appreciate how talented this whole band really is. 

The Zac Brown Band closed out their set as they always do, with “America The Beautiful” mixed as an intro into the band’s first, and biggest hit, “Chicken Fried”.  After ZBB finished doing their thing I thought to myself: wow, they were so good I almost forgot they were not the headliner of the show and Kenny Chesney is yet to come.  In fact, at least two times during their set, Zac Brown made it known to the crowd the Band is motivated to become one of the biggest acts in country music as he boldy stated “we want to come back here and play for ya’ll as a headliner” and “we will be back”.  I absolutely believe him – this Band is the real deal Holyfield. 

To everyone’s delight the rain subsided before Chesney flew into the Stadium as there were only brief spells of drizzle during his set.  Chesney entered the Stadium as he has continously done over the past few years, on a flying apparatus extended high by cables above the floor section.  He sang the entire song “Live A Little” while flying as if he was in Cirque de Soleil. 

Kenny did basically the same set as he did at the New Meadowlands Stadium.  He did throw in the song “She’s From Boston” and the New England Crowd graciously appreciated the hometown love.  However, Chesney was extra emotional and animated.  He normally is very active on stage, but this night, being the final Tour stop, he seemed to full of smiles more than most. 

Chesney, for me, really shines on two songs: “I Go Back” and “Anything But Mine”.  They are the type of songs when you hear them live at his show, they are ten times better than the radio version.  The crowd sings back to him in unison with such precision and he responds to a tee. 

At one point, CMA Chief Executive Officer Steve Moore came out on stage and presented the inaugural CMA Touring Musician Award to Chesney’s keyboard player Wyatt Beard.  Chesney said he had hired Beard ten minutes before leaving for a tour several years ago and he seemed proud to give the trophy to his bandmate – and they shared an emotional embrace. 

Chesney brought out tour-mates Uncle Kracker and Billy Currington to help him sing some of his biggest hits.  Uncle Kracker sang “When The Sun Goes Down” and did a cover of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy” while Currington came out for the second half of the song “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”. 

Kenny sang “Boys Of Fall” to end his set and stated how proud he was to sing that particular song in a Stadium where so much history had been made.  In expected fashion, he had images of Tom Brady and various other New England Patriots on the big screen, resulting in an uproar from the crowd.

The best part of the night was the ending when Chesney brought out the Zac Brown Band for a medley of songs.  It is obvious that Chesney and Zac have become very good friends on the Tour.  Chesney even told the crowd that Zac had set up a party the night before in which he and both members of the Bands sat around and played acoustic songs until 2 a.m. together.  The both signed the boots Kenny was wearing during his set (during the encore he performed in bare feet with mesh shorts and a baseball cap, instead of his normal boots, jeans, and cowboy hat).

Zac and Kenny traded vocals on various covers – including Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight” and “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas”, Garth Brooks’ “Much Too Young To Feel This Damn Old”, a few Bob Marley songs (in which Zac showcased his reggae skills), Sublime’s “Caress Me Down” and Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream”.  As helped each other out on their own singles “Knee Deep” and “Everybody Wants to Go To Heaven”.  At one point, Kenny’s tourmates dumped a cooler of ice water on him.  He had to take of his shirt (in which the women around me went crazy for) and put on a sleeveless Highway 20 Ride Zac Brown Band t-shirt.

Zac Brown and his band dominated the encore when they shocked the crowd and started doing some Hip-Hop songs including Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”.  If you thought ZBB was talented before, their medley of three hip hop songs made that even more evident.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out with a country-hop song in the near future, that’s how strong Zac’s flow was.  Even Zac’s security guard, Mastiff, came out to rap on the final song.

The show was overall better than the one I saw at New Meadowlands Stadium and had much more energy.  Chesney seemed to hug and show love to each member of his own band, the Zac Brown Band, and each of his stage-hands and tourmates.  All 59,000 people in that wet Stadium could see two things were very evident that night: (1) It is easy to see why Kenny Chesney is considered one of the best live performers in all of music today and (2) the Zac Brown Band is well on its way to be placed in that same league. 

Also, one final note – I have heard horror stories about the traffic getting into and out of Gillette Stadium.  Even though the show was clearly sold out, I sat in about two minutes worth of traffic total.  I’m guessing the credit should go to the Police of Foxboro, MA because it was clear sailing both in and out (for me at least). 

Kenny Chesney – “You & Tequila”