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Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field, 7/8/12

Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field, 7/8/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

See Also:
Slideshow: Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field
Top 10 tweets from Brothers of the Sun tour

Dressing like Kenny Chesney at Target Field could get you booted

Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw
Brothers of the Sun Tour
With Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, and Jake Owen
Target Field, Minneapolis
Sunday, July 8, 2012

Things were a little different at Target Field Sunday night. We already know that the downtown Minneapolis home of the Minnesota Twins is a great place for a ballgame, but how would it fare with floorboards covering the playing surface and a giant stage jutting up out of center field? The answer was upon us in the form of a country music concert starring two seasoned vets who were making music back when Chuck Knoblauch was still a Twin. After a Paul McCartney show didn't materialize, this was the very first time the field would be packed with 40,000 music fans -- and these folks chose straw hats and cowboy boots over MLB gear as their signature attire.

You really couldn't ask for a better day for a show. Abundant sun and a little breeze danced through the open-air stadium as Florida product Jake Owen kicked things off with some pop-oriented twang at 4:30 p.m. It really was a day, though. With the final notes echoing off the Ford Building and Target Center more than six hours later, this would be a long time to subsist on Budweiser, nachos, and steel guitar.

It was Grace Potter who looked as comfortable as anyone on the big stage and its cross-shaped runway jutting out into the crowd -- she took to it barefoot! With her backing band the Nocturnals providing a dose of the South via Vermont, they created moments that still had hard-rocking country flair, but without the strict Nashville songcraft found in the rest of the day's acts. ( Although their most popular hit to date is "You and Tequila," a collaboration with our headliner Kenny Chesney.) "Paris (Ooh La La)" got a half-full stadium stomping along, and Potter -- who is all kicking legs and glee -- proved that covering ZZ Top's "Tush" is not something just reserved for the fellas.

Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field, 7/8/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Potter and co. left a great, spastic image -- and provided a teaching moment for all working bands out there -- by wrapping up with "Medicine" off their 2010 self-titled album. This band collaborated on a team effort by gathering around Matt Burr's kit to beat every drum, cymbal, and probably knocked a few limbs in the process. This bit of unbridled teamwork was easy to ponder during nearly a half an hour wait for Tim McGraw's stage to be set.

By the way, Tim McGraw looks a lot like a professional wrestler these days. He chose to offset his skin, tanned to a shade somewhere in the "burnt umber" range, with a stylized white v-neck, matching white jeans, and a black cowboy hat. It was a bit like watching an admittedly understated Macho Man Randy Savage perform "I Like It, I Love It." And though McGraw was the first act of the dual-headlining show, and made the beer vendors happy and delved well into a full-length set spanning his career with a backing band steeped with talent and more understated wardrobe choices.

Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field, 7/8/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Without much scampering around, McGraw can pull the crowd's favor with a well-timed fist pump, and a smile that belies that Target Field is far from his first show playing for an enormous, packed house. A shiny red microphone in hand, he pushed outside his country boundaries with the ELO-conjuring new song "Mexicoma" right after a fiddle-filled "Where the Green Grass Grows" without batting an eye. This guy did record with Nelly back in the day, after all.
 
McGraw's set brought out full-bodies sing-alongs from the audience -- many of whom had beers in hand that might not have been the first of the early evening -- and the beach balls started circulating. Amusements aside, this guy can deliver a well-written narrative like "Live Like You Were Dying" as well as anyone. It proved to be a better fit than the thudding hillbilly oddity of a closing number, "#TruckYeah," in which he proclaims he's got "Lil Wayne pumpin' on my iPod."

For the second shot of the Brothers of the Sun (or #BOTS, if you wish), we received the man with material that makes it seem like the South Beach diet consists of Malibu Rum and the occasional cheeseburger in paradise. For all of Kenny Chesney's partying imagery in his work, the guy is pretty methodical and predictable in his stage show. The big reveal was placing Chesney at a rotating center platform behind second base to open the set with "Beer in Mexico." Then he, in a straw cowboy hat and sleeveless T-shirt, rode a little swing to the main stage. The man who will probably never pay for another Corona -- the tour's sponsor -- for the rest of his days seemed rambunctious to the point that he might have needed one to settle himself a bit. 

Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field, 7/8/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

There's no denying that Chesney's pearly white smile was in great abundance, but it was still hard to receive it as easily as his tour partner. He skipped around onstage almost too quickly, and had sweated through much of his shirt after only a few songs. "Let us reach into your heart and soul tonight," he implored, and there were a few moments that actually felt up to that request. When Chesney is at his best, he's a tad sentimental, but isn't afraid to keep his tempo up. "Never Wanted Nothing More" and "Young" were among the few examples of that from the set.

While Chesney assured us that "Everybody needs to break free from reality," in "Reality," it often seemed that he got a little too hung up on creating "real" moments with cloying songs like "Old Blue Chair" and piano ballad "There Goes My Life." Even "Out Last Night," which is ostensibly about a party, felt like a muted message. There are only so many times you can see Chesney stick out his tongue and bite into it before it starts to feel like an act.

Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field, 7/8/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Things improved for the encore, which reintroduced McGraw at the second base stage, and then he wove his way through the crowd for "Feel Like A Rock Star." Once onstage together, the Brothers were high-fiving and slapping each others' hind ends like teammates. Wisely, McGraw replaced the all-white outfit with a wife-beater and some torn blue jeans for a barrage of hits, including "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" and the one that really put him on the map, "Indian Outlaw." Though it never stopped being a racially questionable choice for subject matter, the song is as infectious as anything on country radio from the past 20 years. A straight-ahead cover of Jackson Browne's decidedly non-country tune "Running on Empty" proved to be an agreeable way to close out a long day that completely dried out the tank.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Target Field only had one chance to make a first impression as a concert venue, and this one seems to point towards a wealth of future events on the grounds. Even for non-country fans, the word that the setup is a workable one -- sight lines everywhere, well-distributed sound, concessions everywhere, etc. -- will spread quickly.     

Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field, 7/8/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

The Crowd: Most of them were just as tan as Tim McGraw.

Drink of the Day: Nothing seemed to go with the day like a $16 bucket of Malibu punch.

Random Detail: I bumped into Carl Pohlad's nephew John, who noted that his favorite part was "when all of the people were singing."

See Also:
Top 10 tweets from Brothers of the Sun tour
Slideshow: Kenny Chesney & Tim McGraw at Target Field
Dressing like Kenny Chesney at Target Field could get you booted
Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw will play first concert at Target Field


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