On the big screen behind Kenny Chesney, there was water everywhere.
Whitish blue water, bright teal water, intense turquoise water. Coastal Mexican water (Chesney’s favorite), to be more specific – in various video montages featuring shirtless men surfing on it, bikini-clad women splashing in it, and crowded party boats streaking across it.
But anyone who showed up for the country star’s concert with a ticket that didn’t buy them shelter from PNC Music Pavilion’s roof was dealing in real life with a less-colorful, less-appealing type of water on Friday night: Rain. Buckets of it. All. Night. Long.
That combined with temperatures hovering right around 60 made the first show of the outdoor summer concert season feel about as summery as a nice, steaming cup of hot cocoa.
So, instead of the women’s fashion show you usually see at summertime country concerts in Charlotte, the dress code for the evening was strictly limited to colorful ponchos on the flashy end of things and clear-plastic-garbage-bag chic on the other.
Meanwhile, up on stage, Chesney was rocking his typical rain-or-shine duds: blue jeans, brown boots, a cowboy hat with the front brim turned down to keep his eyes in shadow, and a vintage distressed Pyrat’s Pub tee – sans sleeves.
“It says a whole lot about a town, about a crowd, about a group of people, when they’ll come out and listen to their favorite songs in the rain,” he said early in his 110-minute set, before launching into on-this-night-slightly-ironic 2006 hit “Summertime.”
It was during this song, in fact, when I noticed that – despite the unseasonably cool weather – the 48-year-old Tennessean was already starting to sweat through his sleeveless tee.
That’s because, as usual, he was working hard up there, strutting, bouncing, sashaying, skipping backwards, waving his arms around, poking at the air, poking at his chest, and high-fiving every fan in the pit who put their hand out (i.e. pretty much all of them).
Frankly, I find Chesney more interesting when he’s doing all that, with just a microphone in his hand; when he picks up an axe – as he did Friday for songs including “Til It’s Gone,” “Anything But Mine,” “American Kids,” “You and Tequila” and “Big Star” – he exposes his key weakness: His average guitar chops.
Besides, when you’ve got three really good shredders in Clayton Mitchell, Jon Conley and especially Kenny Greenberg, plus a kick-butt bassist like Harmoni Kelley, why even bother with the charade?
Kelley, by the way, returned to the fore for another run at AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie,” which she also did last June at Chesney’s Time Warner Cable Arena show. While it didn’t prove to be quite the revelation it was in 2015, she still feels like a star.
Chesney also shared the stage mid-set with Matthew Ramsey and Brad Tursi (of opening act Old Dominion), who wrote “Save It for a Rainy Day” for the headliner’s 2015 CD “The Big Revival” – and joined him for a performance of it.
No one noted the irony of that song’s title.
No one threw their bra on stage either, which is a bit of a non sequitor but something I mention for two reasons:
1. Chesney implied that doing so is a thing; a mic stand near Sean Paddock’s drum kit had a dozen bras draped over it.
2. As I double-timed it through a driving rain and across a muddy parking lot, I noticed two young women who’d stripped down to their bras in order to find some relief from wet clothes.
And after that, all I could think was: It’s a good thing they didn’t elect to add their underthings to Chesney’s collection.