Aftermath: Kenny Chesney - No Shirt, No Shoes, Big Problems At RodeoHouston
Aftermath is not a hater. We are not elitist (that we know of). We understand that reviewing a concert does not give us license to make value judgments about the audience, and that's perfectly fine. We wish that were true about Kenny Chesney and his songs, because all his "Poets and Pirates" ain't gonna like what we have to say about Chesney's performance at RodeoHouston Thursday night. Please bear in mind that, once again, we were watching this show from behind the glass walls of the press box. Up there, way up there, it's almost impossible to gauge what kind of connection, if any, the entertainers are making with their audience beyond the post-song screams and cheers that sound like they're originating somewhere in Sunnyside. (To give credit where it's due, Chesney is a very charismatic individual - that much did come through.) The press box's piped-in sound mix is also hit and miss. Chesney's fiddle player, for example, might as well have taken the night off. None of that mattered, though. We're fairly certain we would have come away from Thursday's concert with the same conclusions if we were standing 20 feet away from Chesney and his band at House of Blues, or sitting a dozen or two rows back at Jones Hall. In a word, the show was lethal, and not lethal in a good way. Lethal as in Chesney's tepid arrangements, hackneyed scenarios and brain-numbing lyrics made Aftermath wonder where the stadium's nearest kitchen was so we could go stick our head in an industrial-size oven. And as pointless as it may be because it's 2010 and not 1975 and because, well, he's dead, we got so bored about halfway through the set that we made up a new game. With apologies to Jesus and Bruce Robison, we called it "What Would Waylon Do?"
The rodeo was kind enough to furnish Aftermath with a set list before Chesney came out. We copied down the songs and scribbled down a few notes in real-time. Here they are... Are we being mean? We'll let you be the judge. "Beer In Mexico" - Like... Loverboy or something. L.A. '80s studio rock. "Keg In the Closet" - Seems to be a nostalgic meditation on hanging with one's bros. "Out All Night" - Reggae song romanticizing a karaoke bar. A singalong for some ladies somewhere close by. "Big Star" - Dedicated to "all the girls in the audience with any dreams in their head." Christ... another song about karaoke. Starring at karaoke night is really what girls dream about these days? God, I hope not. Oh wait... it works out in the end. You have to Believe In Yourself. This is karaoke. This is where we came up with "What Would Waylon Do?" On that last song, Waylon would have gone home with that girl the first night she showed up at the karaoke bar, used her office job to finance a nasty pill habit, and after she became that big star, written a Grammy-winning album about their divorce. "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" - More reggae, heavily influenced by "Don't Worry, Be Happy." I think it almost was there at the end. If that's what I had to look forward to on the jukebox of my local bar after I got off work, I'd have a big problem. "I Go Back" - Not only is this song '80s radio-rock, it's about '80s radio-rock. There is just nothing about this music or any of its messages I can remotely relate to. I can't go back. I don't want to. "How Forever Feels" - I guess it feels like rhyming "senorita" and "margarita." Isn't this what No Exit is about? At the moment, the people around me (except the Chronicle's Joey Guerra) don't seem to be paying a hell of a lot of attention to the music either.
"Anything But Mine" - There is something to this "hair country" thing. This is a total power ballad. Maybe once Warrant's Jani Lane gets that DUI cleared up, he can start pitching Chesney some songs. L.A.M.E. "Living In Fast Forward" - It might be better if he just used Mad Libs to write his lyrics. The guitar is about to turn into ZZ Top. "Young" - The horns (there were four) are making all the fast songs sound like Aerosmith's "The Other Side," but this one is almost up to a cut-rate karaoke version of the Rolling Stones' "Rocks Off." Actually, I think his lyrics may come from weekly visits to Kenny's neighborhood tourist T-shirt vendor. "Never Wanted Nothing More" - Is that a banjo? Who gives a shit? Actually more based in Southern rock than any of the others, but still way overpolished. We imagine the title is what his fans must tell themselves right before giving up their credit card numbers to download his songs or order tickets. OK, that's a little judgmental... sue us. "When the Sun Goes Down" - Hello, Steve Miller! And steel drums. He sure sings about drinking a lot. Unfortunately, we have to get up early, so we are unable to drink to a point where the lyrics might be a little more tolerable. That would probably put us in the hospital. What Would Waylon Do? Dust off the .357. Or another fifth of bourbon. "Don't Happen Twice" - A slower "Safety Dance" with steel guitars. "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" - Totally Def Leppard (OK, which I kinda dig). Down on the field level, about one-third of the crowd is standing, dancing, swaying, etc.
So there you have it. As we were walking out after "Tractor," Thursday's attendance was announced at more than 60,000. We wept for the city - if that's a value judgment, we're perfectly OK with that.
For more photos from the rodeo and concert, check out our slideshow.