Look at them boots. And cowboy hats. And empty beer cans and cups.
Minnesota has gone country. In a big way.
Officially, 39,030 people — about 500 over capacity — attended middle-tier country star Cole Swindell's post-Twins game concert Thursday at Target Field. More than 27,000 partied this weekend with superstar Luke Bryan and others at the three-day 39th We Fest in Detroit Lakes. And Kenny Chesney, the king of country stadium concerts, drew 50,150 revelers on Saturday to U.S. Bank Stadium.
He's earned that crown if only for his last decade in the Twin Cities. This was Chesney's sixth appearance since 2012 at a Minneapolis stadium — Target Field four times and now the Vikings palace twice.
In his first local gig since 2018, Chesney hit the stage in overdrive. He usually starts in fourth gear but this time the opening "Beer in Mexico" was supercharged, fueled by hard-driving new drummer Nick Buda and additional guitarist Danny Rader, who toured with Keith Urban for years.
Chesney has never sounded so loud, amped and explosive. The guitars were cranked to 11 all night. And so was the star, whose Minneapolis concert was postponed twice (because of the pandemic) since going on sale in October 2019. This was his most spirited and crowd-satisfying performance in a Twin Cities coliseum even if it was overloud.
Chesney seldom downshifted even for the slower numbers. "Summertime" is usually a breezy stroll, but on Saturday it felt like a Corvette convertible cruising at 75 mph. "I Go Back," typically a midtempo reflection on younger days, found Chesney so hyper that he was doing jumping jacks. "Get Along," a gentle, simple-minded tune about, well, getting along with one another despite differences, was transformed into a rowdy sing-along drinking song.
Even his classic country ballad, "Anything But Mine," was blasted so loud that its bittersweetness was obliterated, though Chesney's relatively quiet final line was one of his finest vocals.
Chesney did dial it down finally an hour into his 110-minute set, for "Save It for a Rainy Day," when he was joined by two members of opening act Old Dominion, who wrote the song. The island-flavored "When the Sun Goes Down" was pretty chill, too, assuring the No Shoes Nation that this superstar is not just a beach boy because "everything gets hotter when the sun goes down."
Whether it's day or night, in a ballpark or on a gridiron, Chesney touches all the bases — beer, beaches, romance and sentimentality.
More than any other act, the tanned and toned Tennessean has made beaches part of the Nashville landscape, and he proved it Saturday on his twin theme songs, played back-to-back, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" and "We Do," from his 19th and most recent studio album, 2020's "Here and Now."
Chesney, 54, is also big on sentimentality, reflecting on old times Saturday in the ebullient, jumping jack-punctuated "Young," the aforementioned "I Go Back" and "The Boys of Fall," his 2010 nostalgic ode to high school football that he dedicated to the Minnesota Vikings for letting him work out at their TCO Performance Center on Saturday morning.
Lacking the searing intensity of Eric Church (who in June drew a stunning 51,117 to U.S. Bank Stadium) and the hammy showmanship of Garth Brooks (who attracted 70,000 to USBS in 2019), Chesney was more like a hyperkinetic, sweaty rock star in cowboy clothes. In other words, a stadium full of fun.
In some of his previous Minneapolis stadium appearances, Chesney had some pretty high-profile partners open for him, including Tim McGraw, Zac Brown Band, Thomas Rhett and Jason Aldean. This time, he chose three hitmakers with a little less muscle for a massive venue.
The acoustics of the Vikings dome didn't flatter honey-voiced Carly Pearce, who deservedly was recently named CMA and ACM female vocalist of the year. With their hourlong set, Old Dominion, Twin Cities favorites for several years, gave probably their strongest local performance, with their energy and enthusiasm measuring up to the catchiness of their songs, which are part pop, part hip-hop, part beach (thanks Kenny) and all hooks.
Dan + Shay, who crushed it at Target Center last fall, are big on pretty pop ballads (think yacht rock marketed as country music), which play fine on country radio but not necessarily with a beer-fueled, here-for-the-party stadium crowd. Appearing immediately before Chesney, they were far from the right table-setter until Shay Mooney's luxe tenor soared on the closing, singalong "Tequila," which was about heartache, not high times.