Kenny Chesney keeps fans happy at the Linc

Posted: June 09, 2013

It's about time we call Kenny Chesney what he really is: a pop star in a cowboy hat. Sure, he's got some twang, and a song about a sexy tractor, but the most country thing about the 45-year-old Tennessean is that he appeals to such a massive swath of the population. Case in point: Saturday night's stop of Chesney's No Shoes Nation tour at Lincoln Financial Field was packed to the rafters with fans who'd tailgated like it was a Sunday at an Eagles game.

While the name of the tour is a nod to the Chesney hit about lazing in the Mexican surf, citizens of No Shoes Nation showed up in cowboy boots and flip flops, but also Asics, crisp topsiders, puffy Reeboks and thong sandals.

Chesney's embrace of both the everyman struggles of blue-collar Americans and Tequila-drenched Caribbean escapism has made him the Jimmy Buffet of the denim-clad set. And such mass appeal has made Chesney, who just launched his own rum line and was named "country's hottest guy" by People magazine, an industry unto himself. Into this hot swirl of adoration - stoked adeptly by opening act Eric Church's hard-edged country rock - Chesney launched his set with the bombastic, ego-stroking "Feel Like a Rock Star."

Across 21 songs and two hours, Chesney - straw cowboy hat curled just so, and rippling muscles and bulging veins on display in a blue sleeveless T-shirt - prowled the stage which extended with a T-shaped protrusion into the floor seating area, or "the sandbar," as the tour calls it. Chesney reached out to fans, offering high fives that were received like the laying on of hands. The set list tended toward hits ("Beer in Mexico," "Out Last Night") with just a pair of tunes from the new album, Life on a Rock (including the Church-aided "When I See This Bar").

"It's an honor to sing a song about football in a place where football means so much to so many," Chesney said to wild cheers before inviting coach Chip Kelly and several members of the Philadelphia Eagles to share the stage on set-closing gridiron paean "Boys of Fall." As safety Colt Anderson clowned on stage, Chesney plucked a young boy from the crowd and awarded him an Eagles helmet.

After a one-song encore ("She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," naturally) Chesney worked the edges of the stage signing autographs for a good five minutes.

It's this common touch with common folk that keeps him uncommonly beloved.

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