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Chesney debut (in a way) a solid success

SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, Cal., July 23, 2022

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Kenny Chesney was the perfect choice for this first-ever country concert at the new SoFi Stadium. Not only is he able to fill such a large venue, but he's also a big football fan. In a video shown right before his performance, Chesney held a Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams helmet while telling the camera how excited he was to perform at the home of these two NFL teams.

Later during his show, a picture was put up on the big screen of Chesney standing in front of SoFi while it was still under construction. He also told the audience that he attended the Rams vs. Bengals Super Bowl earlier in the year. You might say Chesney has a history – albeit brief – with SoFi Stadium. However, this was his first time performing in the brand-new outlet, and he was visibly thrilled to be there.

Chesney has always been an energetic performer, but tonight he was even more athletic than usual, running across the stage and even jumping up and down with excitement. His t-shirt was soaked with sweat by song five. He's in great shape, though, as he never sounded winded while singing. He also never stopped smiling, either.

Many know Chesney because of his beach party reputation. He is, after all, the 'no shoes, no shirt, no problem' guy. Yet when he sang "Get Along," which asks if we can all learn to live in unity, its words took on more depth – especially after COVID, Black Lives Matter and a very divisive presidential election. Music can be a wonderful unifier, which is why "I Go Back," which ties memories to melodies, is so touching to true music lovers. Even something as innocent as "Summertime" felt particularly celebratory, now that many of us our again getting out and about during the warmer months. Sure, Chesney is a one-man party soundtrack with party-starters like "When the Sun Goes Down," but these days we're not taking our opportunities to party for granted.

Dan + Shay preceded Chesney with a full set mostly overly romantic songs. Dan Smyers played some guitar, and – with his shaggy long hair and Guns 'N' Roses t-shirt – looked more rock and roll than the more clean-cut Shay Mooney. Mooney took most of the lead vocals, while Smyers harmonized and encouraged audience enthusiasm.

Whenever the group stopped singing and let the audience sing words to their songs, it was obvious that this act's most ardent fans are females. Ironically, these two perform a whole song called "Speechless," which is all about not knowing what to say. Dan + Shay is a popular country music duo, although it's difficult to hear what is noticeably country about their sound. The pair closed with their big hit "Tequila."

Old Dominion is also not country, but for different reasons. This group is more of a rock band, which is probably why it felt so comfortable covering Foo Fighters' "Learn to Fly." "Song for Another Time," with its thoughtful lyrics, was the act's best original song tonight. Lead singer Matthew Ramsey performed the band's entire set wearing sunglasses, even though there was no sun glare once the group took the stage around six. Strange.

Opener Carly Pearce was the country-ist act on the bill, even though her eight-song set didn't give her much time at all to explore much of her country side. Nevertheless, fine songs are fine songs, which is why "Never Wanted to be That Girl" and "Next Girl" still hit their emotional marks.

With so much amplified music this night, there wasn't enough acoustic sounds to judge if SoFi is a suitable venue for real country music. Headliner Chesney might not be the best example of roots-oriented contemporary country music, but he sure knows how to make a positive emotional impact with his music, which made his SoFi debut appearance a solid success.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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