FOXBOROUGH — Kenny Chesney performing summertime concerts at Gillette Stadium is equal parts ritual and spectacle. But there was nothing generic to Chesney’s Foxborough storming on Friday, the first of two sold-out nights (that’s 56,101 in attendance per show) at the New England Patriots’ house.
Or at least the seams were not showing at the final destination of the well-paced, smartly packaged Brothers of the Sun tour that had Tim McGraw riding shotgun with Chesney since June. Jake Owen and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals fit right into this rock ’n’ roll-shaded country-music fest, both delivering strong opening sets and popping up later in the evening with Chesney.
McGraw’s 90-minute show featured two new numbers amid a career-spanning song list. Of the new songs, “Truck Yeah” found McGraw poking around harder-rocking turf, which seemed OK for the big stadium setting but may be a bit more abrasive in heavy radio rotation.
Despite the direction “Truck Yeah” headed, there shouldn’t be much worrying about McGraw dumbing down his game. “Felt Good on My Lips,” and “Better Than I Used to Be,” both from McGraw’s most recent record, were the sorts of layered and nuanced tunes on which the singer built his career.
Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Grace Potter
A good Tim McGraw tune is usually about the ups and downs of romance, or a bit of advice, or a celebration of the “Mayberry” lifestyle. He divvied up songs accordingly, with “Something Like That,” “Live Like You Were Dying,” and “Down on the Farm” nailing those motifs.
McGraw and Chesney sported stellar bands that kept the music anchored in country even when the singers wandered into contemporary pop material.
Chesney’s country is actually a brand of pop unto itself. His music is smooth and comfortable, which is how Chesney advertises it. Just in case you needed a clue, by the third song Chesney was singing “Reality,” an ode to escaping just that.
For two hours, Chesney conjured a glow with songs about a certain girl from Boston, the indelible impressions left by favorite songs, and hometown pride.
Even his sad songs felt communal, especially the aw-shucks duet “You and Tequila” performed with Potter.
The show ended with a big Chesney/McGraw bromance. It started with the two barreling through their recorded duet “Feel Like a Rock Star” and Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” then wended into McGraw’s “Indian Outlaw” before ending up at Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” with Potter, Owen, and both headliners’ bands all in tow for a celebratory finale.
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