Detroit gave me my first taste of an American stadium concert. The only thing I could relate to that was seeing Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium a couple of years ago, but even that iconic gig was dwarfed by the sheer size of Ford Field. With an incredibly exciting guest line-up consisting of Brantley Gilbert and Eric Church, this was a hot ticket to have, and the energy of the crowd definitely reflected that!
The show kicked off with Kenny Chesney’s normal support Old Dominion and Chase Rice. Old Dominion gave a solid, if not hugely special performance, with one song in particular being impressive. Chase Rice however was awful. I like the music of ‘bros’ like Florida Georgia Line, but Chase Rice was easily the worst performer I’ve ever seen, with very little charm, singing ability or, given the fact he co-wrote ‘Cruise’, writing ability.
Brantley Gilbert however, was on top form. At this point in the gig I was sceptical of having shows in such a big arena, but Brantley showed that it can be fantastic, with the rock energy of his set owning the stadium. His rock numbers were really cool for the life they brought out of the crowd even at the early hour, but his more emotional songs like ‘One Hell Of An Amen’ and ‘You Don’t Know Her Like I Do’ were really special, showing off both his vocal and writing ability.
Next up was Eric Church. It’s safe to say that I pretty much bought the ticket just to see him, so I’m going to focus most of this review on the Chief. Beginning his set with a magical acoustic version of Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ was a risk since American audiences seem to go to shows just to drink beer and party, but I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Following up with his hit ‘Springsteen’ was also fitting, and got the crowd going with some singing.
Eric Church is simply the best performer I’ve seen, and as he rattled off hit after hit, it was easy to tell that the audience was just as into his set as I was. It’s hard to isolate particular highlights since I pretty much love all his songs, but ‘Talladega’ was particularly poignant at this stage of my life, as was ‘Pledge Allegiance To The Hag’. Whilst he was amazing, it wasn’t as special as his unique acoustic set in Nashville. I think in some ways I’ve been spoiled with that since I find it unlikely that I will ever hear anything that will compare to that performance, and certainly Eric with his full band was somewhat less unique, yet still incredibly electric and special.
If I were Kenny Chesney I wouldn’t have let Eric Church anywhere near my show, since no matter how good he was, Eric was always going to steal the show. Having said that, arriving to the stadium on a levitating chair whilst singing ‘Drink It Up’ was a pretty damn cool opening! Throughout the show the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard, possibly because there were about 100,000 drunk Kenny Chesney fanatics in the stadium! For me however, the set was a little one dimensional, with very loud rock sounds throughout. I would have preferred Kenny to perform more of his fantastic stripped back songs like ‘Down The Road’, but unfortunately the closest he got was ‘Wild Child’ which was less powerful without Grace Potter’s beautiful harmonies. Don’t get me wrong, Kenny put on a great show, but it was more of a party than a concert, and I was definitely not drunk enough to take full advantage of the atmosphere.