by Jeff Niesel
Shortly before Kenny Chesney took the stage last night at Blossom, a lengthy video montage/Corona ad played and set the tone for the show. We saw Chesney sitting in the hot tub with his shirt off. We saw him playing volleyball on the beach. We saw him sitting on a boat. The clip reinforced the obvious — Chesney is all about summer and its trappings. He’s to country music as Jimmy Buffett is to rock ’n’ roll.
Chesney might even be more rock than country these days. After all, he opened the show with “Feel Like a Rock Star,” a song that worked better last summer at Browns Stadium when he sang it with co-headliner Tim McGraw, but still came off as a rocking anthem. Between songs, Chesney talked how much he loved performing at Blossom, a venue he said he first played some 12 years ago. The fans clearly loved him back as they sang lyrics to party anthems such as “Beer in Mexico” and “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” in unison with Chesney, who was a real bundle of energy as he constantly adjusted his cowboy hat and prowled the stage like some kind of panther.
Opener the Eli Young Band could have used some of Chesney’s charm and charisma. Though frontman Mike Eli seemed to spring to life a bit for a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps,” the guy had little to no stage presence for most of his 45-minute set. He and his band capably switched from mid-tempo ballads to country-rock tunes and sounded particularly sharp on a cover of Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly.” Though good-natured and cordial, Eli just couldn’t command attention.