Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw are having as much fun as their fans. Their Brothers of the Sun tour set down at Nashville’s LP Field Saturday (6/23), bringing a 6-hour party—even longer for devoted tailgaters—that felt like a reunion between the superstars and country music lovers.
The night was a treat for longtime fans who have followed McGraw’s and Chesney’s almost two decade careers, as the singers delivered hit after hit from their mega catalogs. What’s fantastic about the Brothers experience is that while both performers have grown artistically since their debuts, they enjoy returning to the sometimes hokey hits that later allowed them the freedom to explore more thought provoking material.
The heat didn’t deter the parking lot full of tailgaters, many of whom gathered before noon to pre-party for the 4 PM show. They toted in games of cornhole, sets of speakers, and loaded-down coolers. In keeping with Chesney’s laid back beach-inspired brand, plastic leis draped many necks in the crowd of mostly 40-and-unders. Jake Owen kicked off the music inside the 68,000 seat stadium, followed by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
When McGraw took the stage around 6:45 PM, his opening numbers including newer hit “Felt Good on My Lips,” and older favorite “For A Little While” had couples dancing hand-in-hand in front of the concessions booths. And that’s how it went all night long, the perfect blend of new and catalog hits from two of country music’s greatest acts.
McGraw offered early career boosters “Down on the Farm,” “Everywhere,” “Just To See You Smile,” and “Where The Green Grass Grows” which brought the entire crowd to its feet. The sun was as bright as his all-white wardrobe as he continued, previewing “Mexicoma” and “Truck Yeah” from his upcoming release. Of course, his set also included monster smash “Live Like You Were Dying.”
“You can wake up every morning and put your best foot forward and try to be the best person you can be,” he said as he launched into recent hit, “Better Than I Used To Be.”
Fans received the added bonus of appearances by surprise guests—Faith Hill joined him for “I Need You,” and Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tossed footballs into the crowd.
Banners decorated the sides of the gigantic stage, featuring photographs of a warm orange coastal sunset sinking into cool aqua waves. Video screens were a key part of the experience in such a huge venue, and good camera work kept the projections interesting.
Upping the video ante, Chesney’s set benefited from the dark night sky which made the lighting and screens even more spectacular. The stadium was a sea of cell phone lights and colored beams slicing the air. His grand entrance included flying above the fans on a swing while singing “Beer In Mexico.” For the night, Chesney was the preacher to his devoted congregation. He and the crowd fed off each other’s energy, which was as thick as the humidity.
He partied right along with his fans, offering escapism-via-enjoyment favorites including “Reality,” “Living In Fast Forward” and “Out Last Night.” But all his hits aren’t about nights on the town, he does sentimental equally well, and slowed the tempo for moody angst on “Somewhere With You” and doting reflection on “Anything But Mine.” No matter the song, if he stopped singing, the crowd could carry the lyrics.
When Potter returned for “You And Tequila” it was one of the highlights, with the performers sharing a genuine moment, just as Hill and McGraw had earlier. Chesney, who has been playing stadiums for years but hadn’t stopped in Nashville since 2007, said the acoustic song reminds him of his early days playing for tips. He thanked songwriters Deana Carter and Matraca Berg, who last week won Song of the Year for “Tequila” at the MusicRow Awards.
To celebrate Potter’s birthday, the Franklin High marching band made an appearance and played “Happy Birthday” while the crowd sang along.
The finale was the most fun of an already eventful night. Rounding out the hit-packed show was a return to where it all started for the superstars, with McGraw coming back to the stage for their duet “Feel Like A Rock Star.” Then they traded verses on career making smashes “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and “Indian Outlaw.” Owen and Potter helped shut down the stadium with a cover of Jackson Browne’s “Running On Empty.”