Kenny Chesney at Wildwood Beach, NJ (American Express Unstaged)

Kenny Chesney
American Express Unstaged
Wildwood Beach, NJ
June 20, 2012

On Wednesday, June 20, 2012, the Jersey Shore witnessed a once in a lifetime event as Kenny Chesney performed on Wildwood Beach as a part of American Express’ Unstaged Concert Series.  Chesney, who released a new album the day before entitled “Welcome to the Fishbowl”, was the star of this amazing event, directed by Jonathan Demme, which was also streamed live on various internet sites across the net. 

The event planners and Chesney’s fan club had given out 20,000 tickets to fans who were able to access the enclosed portion of the beach. These ticket holders invaded Wildwood as another 30,000 plus arrived and were content in just hearing the music from the Boardwalk.  All day long, the Jersey Shore town turned into Kenny Chesney Central. 

Bars were selling drinks such as “You and Tequila” and “Hemmingway’s Whiskey” and large signs were hanging from houses, hotels, bars, and stores, welcoming the country superstar to town. Dozens of t-shirt stores created their own custom shirts and tank tops for this particular night as it was clear Chesney’s appearance drastically helped the area’s economy. 

The concert itself began promptly at 8:30 p.m. with an extended intro video, designed by Jonathan Demme, showcasing many of Chesney’s island travels as well as his arrival at Wildwood and a behind the scenes look at the setup of the massive stage on the beach. The show then got started with some Chesney concert staples, “Beer In Mexico” and “Summertime”, both quite appropriate for the beach setting that night. 
Chesney proclaimed, various times during the night, that the venue/beach was easily one of the coolest places he has ever played. He certainly played up to the beach theme, as he usually does, with songs such as “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem”, “On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful”, and “Guitar and Tiki Bars”. Suprisingly, the song that got the biggest response all night, was “When the Sun Goes Down” as it became an instant sing-a-long and had everyone taking off their flip-flops and grinding their toes in the sand.  

Much of the show was high production with an interactive high definition screen and a spectacular light show. The stage was absolutely enormous and was amplified by the bordering ferris wheel on the left and rollar coasters on the right.   The setting and ambience of the entire night was spectacular.  In fact, I found Chesney to be most geniune when he stripped down to an acoustic guitar as he sang “You and Tequila” and “Old Blue Chair”. Chesney singing these songs acoustically in the ocean air really brought home what the night was about: loving music and enjoying life, especially when on a beach. 

What I did find odd and a bit disappointing was that he only performed two songs off of his new album. But, the two that he did perform were incredibly well received. “Feel Like a Rockstar” had the crowd stomping and singing along, despite the absence of Tim McGraw (many false rumors were circulating that he and Grace Potter were in town and were to perform as special guests). And “Come Over”, complete with snippets of the steamy music video, was performed to perfection. It is only a matter of time until “Come Over” becomes yet another #1 song for the King of Summer. 

After Chesney performed his football anthem, “Boys of Fall”, it appeared as if he was finished for the night.  In fact, that is when the fans watching on the internet were told that the Wildwood Experience had concluded.  But after a few minutes, Chesney and his talented band came back to the stage and he proclaimed “okay, they got their concert in … now its time for the second show!”  They ripped into “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and all of sudden the energy in crowd seemed to increase instantly.  
What would follow was a nine song set full of Chesney taking requests from the crowd and famous cover songs in which he and his band absolutely rocked on.  There were long electric guitar solo’s being traded by each of the skilled band members on “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks and “Pride and Joy” by Stevie Ray Vaughn.  He even brought out songwriter Mark Tamburino to perform an extended version of “Like a Blister In the Sun”.  At one point he asked the crowd what they wanted hear next and many people shouted out “I Go Back” and Chesney hit himself in the head.   He said “how in the world did that get left off the setlist.  Okay, let’s go” and many fans were finally satisfied with the night’s missing hit finally being sung. 

To me, the absolute highlight of the night was Chesney’s acoustic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” (see video below).  He told the crowd it was a bit taboo if he had not performed this song while being at the Jersey Shore as Bruce was one of his big brothers in the business.  Despite fumbling while trying to tune his guitar to where he wanted it to be, Chesney nailed a stripped version of the song and many fans responded with their gratitude for his version.  Various shouts of “Bruuuuuuuuuceeee” were heard throughout the beachside. 

 Kenny and company finished the set with a cover of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” and thanked to crowd numerous times before leaving the stage.  It was an amazing two hour plus, 27 song set that was performed to perfection throughout.  It is very evident to any concert goer that there is no better performer in all of country music.  His energy is unparalled and his songs are the perfect choices, both lyrically and musically, for live shows.  And on this night, on the beach in Wildwood, while I had my toes in the sand, I do not think I have enjoyed a show more.

SETLISTS:

American Express Set:

  1. Beer in Mexico
  2. Summertime
  3. Feel Like A Rockstar
  4. No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem
  5. What I Need To Do
  6. Come Over
  7. Anything But Mine
  8. Guitar and Tiki Bars
  9. You and Tequila (Acoustic Version)
  10. Old Blue Chair (Acoustic Version)
  11. Living in Fast Forward
  12. Young
  13. Somewhere With You
  14. On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful
  15. Everyone Wants to Go to Heaven
  16. When the Sun Goes Down
  17. Don’t Happen Twice
  18. Boys of Fall

2nd Set:

  1. She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy
  2. Went Out Last Night
  3. Like a Blister In the Sun (featuring Mark Tamburino)
  4. You Really Got Me (The Kinks Cover)
  5. Pride and Joy (Stevie Ray Vaughn Cover)
  6. I Go Back
  7. Never Wanted Nothing More
  8. Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen Acoustic Cover)
  9. The Joker (Steve Miller Band Cover)
VIDEO:
“Hungry Heart”  (Bruce Springsteen Acoustic Cover)
You can see the entire performance here: http://www.youtube.com/kennychesneyvevo