Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chesney's Frothy Hits Remind: It's 5 O'clock Somewhere; He's Picked Up on Jimmy Buffett's Thirst for the Caribbean and His Skill at Rousing a Crowd

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Chesney's Frothy Hits Remind: It's 5 O'clock Somewhere; He's Picked Up on Jimmy Buffett's Thirst for the Caribbean and His Skill at Rousing a Crowd

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF VRABEL

Perhaps the least surprising development in modern country is musicians are finally cribbing regularly from Jimmy Buffett. Perhaps the most surprising one is that it took this long for them to think of it.

Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton and Alan Jackson have taken brief dips into the ultra-lucrative Jimmy pool in recent years, but no one has jumped into it quite like Kenny Chesney, who astutely noticed that the ludicrously rich Buffett gets ludicrously richer every summer thanks more to good cheer, frosty drinks and a faithful fan base than actual new songs.

Chesney's latest record, Songs From An Old Blue Chair, is a mostly acoustic argument for the health benefits of life in the Virgin Islands, less an homage to Buffett than something that, if the head Parrothead had clever-enough lawyers, he could probably get royalties for.

But if Chesney picked up on Buffett's thirst for the Caribbean, he also learned his skill at rousing a crowd, as he proved again Friday before a sold-out house at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. By now, Chesney's shaped his stage show into a massively efficient crowd-pleasing machine, and he expertly blazed through two hours of frothy hits (No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, How Forever Feels), rollicking covers (Midnight Rider, Conway Twitty's Lay You Down) and a flurry of golden-god poses potent enough to probably startle Robert Plant.

Chesney's live show is a lock. What's interesting is that, between Chesney and opener Gretchen Wilson, Friday represented several distinct paths ahead for country, a genre in desperate need of at least one.

Take the fiddle and pedal steel out of Chesney's catalog, and you've got straight-up pop/rock songs, from the glammy riffage of Big Star to the covers of John Mellencamp's Hurts So Good (with Wilson) and Kid Rock's Cowboy (with opener Uncle Kracker), to the engaging I Go Back (which itself lifted the organ riff from Dire Straits' Walk of Life). …

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