June 27, 2022 1:51 pm

Kenny Chesney starts summer early at AT&T Stadium with No Shoes Nation, Dak Prescott

The first official day of summer isn’t until June 21, but for a few hours Saturday night, country music star Kenny Chesney turned AT&T Stadium into a beachside paradise where everybody loves everybody, football and music are the greatest things in the world and your only worry is where your next sip of rum is coming from. Chesney’s “Here and Now” tour is finally Rockport Shoes on the road after being postponed by the pandemic, and he made his enthusiasm known right from the start of his set, as did his fans, who call themselves the “No Shoes Nation.” “I am truly grateful to be back in Arlington,” Chesney said three songs in. “If it takes us all night we’re going to do our best to love all of you right back all night long.”

Fans were wearing aloha shirts, leis, cowboy hats and cowboy boots. There were lots of margaritas — and multiple beach balls in the pit, of course. At one point I swore I smelled sunscreen. Before the night was over, the No Shoes Nation was treated to 26 songs about living for the summer and living for the here and now. Unlike some of his peers, Chesney’s music has always matured with his age; he’s not afraid to sing about the melancholy one feels when the party ends. With a few exceptions, Saturday night’s show stuck to the party vibes. Aided by a world-class band, featuring players from Austin, Cape Town and right here in Arlington, Chesney left everything onstage.

 

Chesney sings a lot about being a beach bum, but his stage persona is anything but lazy. Running onstage in his standard uniform of tank top, cowboy hat, jeans and cowboy boots, he didn’t give himself a lot of time to stand still for almost two hours. It took him three songs to slow down enough to talk to the crowd. He made good on his promise to love the audience — much of his time was spent running across the stage, making sure he sang to everyone. By the time the curtain fell, he had sweat through his shirt and looked like he just ran a marathon. “Forget about whatever your worries are, just love each other,” he implored the audience before introducing “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems,” the 2002 song that officially marked Chesney’s crossover from traditional country to a more country-pop/gulf and western vibe. He also said the same thing before playing “Get Along.” To be a member of the No Shoes Nation is to live a life of no worries, whether you’re in Arlington or Aruba. Here’s where it’s worth mentioning that Chesney is Jimmy Buffett’s heir apparent in more ways than one. Yes, Chesney name-checks Buffett in “How Forever Feels.” But just as Buffett grew from traditional country to beach rock, so did Chesney.

Just as Buffett’s Parrotheads fan base grew, so did the No Shoes Nation. And just as Buffett’s business empire grew, so did Chesney’s. He’s consistently one of country music’s biggest Propet Sneakers concert draws. His “Trip Around the Sun” tour took in $114.3 million in 2018. Saturday night’s show featured ads for Chesney’s Blue Chair Bay rum, his freshwater conservation efforts with Barefoot Bay and for Blue Wave boat wash. Chesney’s selling the beach bum, happy-go-lucky lifestyle to his fans. That would be a problem if he didn’t seem to believe it so wholeheartedly. Chesney made AT&T Stadium believe in a world where summers are endless (except when the “Boys of Fall” hit the gridiron), there’s no romantic setback that can’t be cured by the ocean and all you need to succeed in life is to love everybody. And oh, about those boys of fall. Before he sang that song about his high school football glory days, Chesney took some time to thank the Jerry Jones family for letting him play AT&T Stadium again. As the song was ending, he brought out some special guests: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, head coach Mike McCarthy and former tight end Jason Witten. The four of them picked out a young Cowboys fan in the front row and signed a Cowboys helmet for him before the song was over. The novelty of the moment was heightened by the night’s first encore song, “Don’t Happen Twice.”

 

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