Uncle Kracker performs at Kenny Chesney's kickoff of his Big Revival Tour
Kenny Chesney launched his The Big Revival Tour at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena Thursday night with a three-hour song circus complete with a bevy of special guests before a sold-out crowd that included his mom who wanted to see him on his birthday. He'll headline the venue again on Friday.
Chesney turned 47 on Thursday and by the end of the night, Eagles guitar player Joe Walsh was on stage leading the crowd in a version of "Happy Birthday" before handing Chesney a large trophy with the greeting etched in the metal.
But much music happened between the bookends.
Chesney kicked his show off with his show with "Drink It Up" from his 2014 album "The Big Revival," and radio hits "Reality," "Keg in the Closet" and "Beer in Mexico," which he ended on his knees with his back on the floor under a guitar.
The singer, an eight-time entertainer of the year, greeted the audience with open arms and then did his best to hold them there for the rest of the night.
"Are we feeling good out there?" a well-tanned and toned Chesney asked from the stage, showing off his sculpted biceps in a sleeveless Grace Potter t-shirt.
Over the course of the concert, Chesney didn't talk much – he just kept the hits and charisma coming. He fit a version of his stadium stage into Bridgestone Arena then glided across the structure and its catwalks with a grace, comfort and confidence of someone welcoming friends into his home.
Leading up to the show, Chesney shared his anxiety ahead of opening night, his worry about all the pieces falling together. His jitters weren't on display. He was all warm eagerness and smiles as he made points of connecting with audience members at every angle and tier in the arena.
"Tonight … don't think about tomorrow," he told his fans. "Don't think about earlier today. All we're going to think about for the next two or three hours is right now. We're excited to be back on the road. There are reasons we are all here and it's because you all are here."
His music touched every point his two-decade career. Fans sang "Summertime" along with him and nearly as loud as his state-of-the-art sound system. Audience members used their cell phones to light up the arena like fireflies during "Anything But Mine" and danced and sang along with "No Shoes, No Shirt No Problems." "There Goes My Life" was just Chesney, the fans and a piano. He said he got several requests for "Old Blue Chair," so he sang that and then had himself a celebratory drink.
"I don't usually drink this, but when I do it's going to be a long night," Chesney told the crowd, taking a swig from a large, white cup.
He even had a wardrobe change – which for him meant swapping his cowboy hat out for a ball cap less than halfway through the show.
When Chesney announced plans in January to kick his tour off in Nashville on his birthday, he hinted he may have special guests. He didn't disappoint.
Taylor Swift was his first surprise of the evening. Fans snapped pictures of her watching part of the show from the audience. She strolled out on stage 10 songs into the set to duet with Chesney on his hit "Big Star" as the crowd gasped and erupted in cheers.
Grace Potter came out three songs later to perform "Wild Child" with Chesney, which is his current single on country radio. Chesney let his band take the lead on "Whole Lot of Rosie" and then talked to fans about the number of people that have supported No Shoes Nation, including Nashville songwriters.
He brought out David Lee Murphy, a country singer who penned several of Chesney's hits, to sing his signature song "Dust on the Bottle" then asked him to stick around for "Party Crowd."
Two songs later, Uncle Kracker showed up for four songs including "When the Sun Goes Down" and "Drift Away."
"The party is not going to stop," Chesney told fans at about the two-hour mark. "There's going to be a lot of people a little late to work tomorrow and they're going to say, 'We went out last night,'" he said before he played his hit "Out Last Night."
He brought Potter back out to sing "You and Tequila" in the encore and then closed with "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy," which had fans dancing and swinging their arms in the air -- except the show wasn't over.
"I would normally end my show there," Chesney told fans. Then he introduced the Eagles' Joe Walsh.
"Are you ready to go home?" he asked his audience at one point. They emphatically shouted, "No." "No? We'll order breakfast."
Walsh was on stage for four songs — not counting "Happy Birthday" — and countless guitar solos that included Walsh and the birthday boy dueting on "Life in the Fast Lane" and "All Night Long," which ended the show well past midnight.
The band continued to play on stage as Chesney graciously shook hands with audience members and signed autographs as fans filed out of the arena.
"We love you, good night," Chesney waved from the stage. "See you tomorrow."
Chesney will play his second sold out show at Bridgestone Arena Friday night.
Kenny Chesney Set List:
"Drink It Up"
"Beer In Mexico"
"Keg In The Closet"
"Til It's Gone"
"No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem"
"Big Star" (with Taylor Swift)
"Somewhere With You"
"I Go Back"
"Wild Child" (with Grace Potter)
"Old Blue Chair"
"Living In Fast Forward"
"Whole Lotta Rosie"
"Anything But Mine"
"There Goes My Life"
"How Forever Feels"
"Dust On The Bottle" (with David Lee Murphy)
"Party Crowd" (with David Lee Murphy)
"Never Wanted Nothing More"
"When The Sun Goes Down" (with Uncle Kracker)
"Follow Me" (with Uncle Kracker)
"Cowboy" (with Uncle Kracker)
"Drift Away" (with Uncle Kracker)
"Don't Happen Twice"
"Out Last Night"
"Boys Of Fall"