- Hunter Phillips
Review: It's Always Summertime with Kenny Chesney
While a thunderstorm roared through Des Moines, so too did Kenny Chesney. The country music star made his way to Iowa's capital city as part of his "Songs for the Saints Tour" on May 16th. It was Chesney's first performance in Des Moines since "The Big Revival Tour" in 2015, and his return was well-received. Geographically, Chesney's "Songs for the Saints Tour" is much different than his 2018 "Trip Around the Sun Tour". It features smaller markets and venues. The common denominator, however, is Chesney's vibrancy and charisma with his fans. It was certainly on full display at Wells Fargo Arena.
The evening started with the pairing of Caroline Jones and David Lee Murphy. Jones, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from New York, is no stranger to opening for big acts. In 2017, she opened for Zac Brown Band during their "Welcome Home Tour". And in 2018, Jones opened for Jimmy Buffett (which also included a stop in Des Moines). In the same year she signed with Buffett's record label, Mailboat Records, which boasts a well-known cast of artists, such as: Mac McAnally, Bret Michaels, Sammy Hagar, Mishka and even Jeff Bridges. From Parrotheads to No Shoes Nation, Jones has become a familiar face and voice to those who cling to the island life. Jones performed songs from her 2018 album, "Bare Feet", as well as her latest single, "Chasin' Me" (a song regularly played on Chesney's Sirius XM channel, "No Shoes Radio"). Later in the evening, Jones would join Chesney on stage to sing fan-favorite, "You and Tequila". Jones has had the rare opportunity to tour with country music's biggest artists and is starting to pave her own path to stardom.
Accomplished country music singer and songwriter, David Lee Murphy, followed Jones. It was only fitting that Murphy would tag along on Chesney's tour, as their roots date back several years. Many know Murphy for his bar ballad, "Dust on the Bottle", as well as "Party Crowd" (the most-played country music song in 1995). Few, however, know about Murphy's resume in songwriting. In 2006, Murphy wrote Chesney's "Living in Fast Forward", which became a number one single. He also collaborated with Chesney on; "Live a Little", "Pirate Flag" and "Bar at the End of the World". Murphy has also worked alongside other country music stars, including: Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and Jake Owen among many others. Murphy gave fans a blend of his older hits as well as tracks from his 2018 album, "No Zip Code". And similar to last year on the "Trip Around the Sun Tour", Murphy would accompany Chesney to bring the audience, "Everything's Gonna Be Alright". Their off-stage friendship is just as harmonious as it is on-stage.
When it became Chesney's turn to light up the stage (no pun intended), his introduction video was cut short. Little did fans know that severe thunderstorms were passing through Des Moines, which caused a brief power outage. The delay lasted a mere 15 minutes before the man of the hour bursted onto the scene. Similar to his 2018 tour, Chesney opened with crowd-pleaser, "Beer in Mexico". Chesney mainstays, such as; "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems", "When the Sun Goes Down", "Young" and "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" were on the docket and brought the fans to their feet. The four-time CMA Entertainer of the Year packed several hit tracks in just about two hours and took every opportunity to acknowledge the energy of the crowd that totaled nearly 13,000. He even nabbed a few license plates from nearby audience members that donned lyrics from his songs, a collection that has become rather extensive throughout his years on tour. Only one single, "Get Along", was featured from his 2018 album bearing the name of the tour, "Songs for the Saints". Laid-back, beach vibe videos playing in the background complimented Chesney's performance. It was a tropical party in which all in attendance were welcome.
This was my second Kenny Chesney concert, and one that I'll remember for quite some time. It's tough to beat the lineup of Brandon Lay, Old Dominion and Thomas Rhett (who is coming to Des Moines in September) who were all featured in the "Trip Around the Sun Tour". Brandon Lay is a rising star in country music, while Old Dominion (who co-wrote Chesney's hit single "Save It for a Rainy Day") was most recently named the ACMA's Vocal Group of the Year for 2018. And Thomas Rhett needs no introduction. Watching that show at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, which holds over 50,000 more people than Wells Fargo Arena, was breathtaking.
Even on a smaller scale, Chesney did not disappoint. Now I will admit that I am a proud member of No Shoes Nation. In its core, the philosophy of No Shoes Nation is about celebrating good times with good people and damn good music. And you feel that connection at a Chesney show, every single time. On his Sirius XM satellite radio channel, "No Shoes Radio", Chesney announced his tour stops and dates. When Des Moines, along with Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Lincoln, Nebraska were brought up, Chesney jokingly said, "At least we're not playing there during the winter". Thank you for bringing that summer vacation vibe back to Iowa, Kenny. We all needed it.