Partway through his first song, you could see the first signs of dampness on Kenny Chesney's vintage Rose Bowl muscle tee. Two hours later, the country singer left the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater stage without a dry spot on his shirt.
Chesney probably could have worked up a sweat standing still Thursday night; it was 90 degrees at show time. But this man does not stand still. Through more than two dozen songs, the 43-year-old strutted, bounced, waved, bobbed and weaved like a 23-year-old, limiting the chatter and taking not a single significant break.
It was a triumphant return for Chesney, who took last year off from touring and hadn't been in Charlotte since 2008, when he played the outdoor venue with LeAnn Rimes during the "Poets & Pirates" tour. "When we tell you, Charlotte, that we missed you guys ... we missed you guys," he said from beneath his trademark cowboy hat.
He blitzed through No. 1s "Live a Little," "Summertime" and "Beer in Mexico" early, as fans pumped their fists, batted around beach balls and took swigs from 16-ounce cans of beer.
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But he was a mix master: For every couple of monster hits, there was a smaller song such as "Coastal" or "On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful" (both of which go well with the tropical-paradise theme of his show, dubbed the "Goin' Coastal" tour and sneaks in references to title sponsor Corona).
The set slowed a little in the middle as Chesney strung together three ballads - "Anything But Mine," "There Goes My Life" and "On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful" - but this is probably intentional. My guess is he expends so much energy in the first 45 minutes that he needs a breather before diving back in.
Chesney's not a stage hog. He brought back openers Uncle Kracker and Billy Currington, and seemed to have an easy rapport with both.
If the encore seemed odd, it's because his recent single "The Boys of Fall" is kind of a melancholy way to punctuate what was otherwise a rollicking party. Again, it was nearly 90 degrees.
Seemed like the perfect time for "Summertime."