Before Kenny Chesney began his concert, the power chord strains of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" thrummed from the speakers and caused a sizable portion of the audience to join along in paeans of joy.
Then there was a snippet of Ram Jam's 1980s hit cover of Leadbelly's old blues tune "Black Betty" emanating from the massive speakers, raising the level of excitement even more.
Then -- WHAM! The opening drapery with Chesney's tour logo and sponsorship prominently displayed, dropped from the rafters, unveiling a band rocking out to the max. Lights flashed, guitars were screaming, and a huge video screen at the back of the set quick cut between single, double, triple and even quadruple visions of what Chesney and the musicians were doing onstage.
There were even little video vignettes taken in various tropical locations with Kenny, the band and various friends [including a momentary glimpse of Sammy Hagar and Chesney bending elbows] having fun and cracking up.
Songs like "Summertime" [not the Gershwin chestnut], "Beer and Mexico" and the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider" were well received, but, truth to tell, it didn't seem as though there wasn't anything that Chesney could do that wouldn't generate some heat with his fans. There were certainly a lot of them in the venue as evidenced by the fact that it was awfully hard to see a speck of green among the folks seated up on the lawn.
The crowd was going nuts, standing up for every tune, singing along to the lyrics and taking pictures with cell phones to help preserve the memory of the time they saw one of their favorite stars. Who could blame them? The whole show was done so well and so beguilingly, with so much good-natured energy and verve, that the experience was unnervingly enjoyable.
Opening performers, Sugarland and Pat Green, were perfect foils for the Chesney experience. Both acts came onto the stage to considerable applause and left to even bigger applause.
Sugarland features the incredible vocals of Jennifer Nettles, whose energy and charisma were almost forces of nature. They ran through a litany of their hits, including "Baby Girl," which generated a sing-along moment with the audience, and a rocking "Down in Mississippi."
The real surprise, however, was a cover of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," which Nettles introduced by noting that "any good song can be made country."
Pat Green was an amazing performer and almost worth the ticket price alone. While he has had a decent career as an independent performer with impressive Texas credentials, Green took nothing for granted, attacking the stage with the power and speed of a middle linebacker looking to create havoc in somebody's backfield. He worked the crowd hard, really hard.
At one point he jumped off the stage -- revealing the fact that he had been performing barefoot -- and strode into the crowd, exchanging high-fives and hand shakes while singing at top volume.
WHO: Kenny Chesney
WHEN: Thursday night
WHERE: Darien Lake Performing Arts Center