Chesney delights crowd 'in a small town'

Kenny Chesney fans wait in line for his concert Wednesday night at Common Grounds.

MORGAN PETROSK/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 2:46 a.m.
One of country music's hottest bands squeezed itself into a very small space last night as heavy hitter Kenny Chesney brought his band to the Common Grounds Coffeehouse for a sold-out show with 350 lucky fans.
In a small, sweltering, low-tech atmosphere, looking more like a college band than big time Nashville, Chesney and cohorts delivered summer time fun to a pumped up crowd. Sporting a white T-shirt and orange Florida hat, Chesney opened up the night with his latest hit "Beer in Mexico" and followed up quickly with "Keg in the Closet."
Chesney and the band were bouncing around the stage all smiles, high-fiving fans who staked out turf near the stage hours before the show started.
"Don't peak too early," Chesney warned the crowd, "we're going to be here a long time."
Chesney has been playing three-hour shows on the tour.
"I am so fired up right now," exclaimed Sarah Nields, who paid $125 for the ticket she bought through a newspaper ad she placed.
It might seem odd to find an artist who's played before 1.3 million fans, and out-sold the Rolling Stones on his previous tour, working a small stage, but it's not that unusual.
"It's a tuneup tour," said Calvin Moore, who managed security at The Venue (formerly The Palace) where Chesney played in 2004. "The band gets back together and works on material for the new tour."
Warm-up shows are actually quite common. Bands like Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen and others like to hit a local club and hone their chops before they take a show on the road.
That is the case this time around. Chesney opens his official tour, Flip Flop Summer, on April 12 in Omaha, Neb. Gainesville was third on a five-stop mini-tour that started in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and heads to Key West for two shows at the Hogsbreath Bar and Margaritaville.
Fans who packed Common Grounds had to move fast to get the $10 tickets, which sold out in 6 minutes Friday. It was not a bad deal for a little fast footwork, considering tickets for his upcoming April 21 show in Jacksonville's Veterans Memorial Arena go for $64.50. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday. Proceeds from last night's show go to the Kenny Chesney Foundation.
Chesney is one of the most popular acts in music, and the only country musician playing stadium size venues this year. The Tennessee native has numerous country music awards, his own ABC network special, and several top 10 hits. His current single "Beer in Mexico" is No. 6 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.
While the act may be top billing, logistics for the show have been business as usual for the Common Grounds.
"We had to add a little security," says co-owner Nigel Hamm, who scheduled the show a month ago after Chesney's management contacted him. His biggest headache has been all the extra buses that arrived this morning. Stars don't travel light.
Chesney also seems to be taking it all in stride as he spent part of his day working on his tan while lounging in the coffeehouse's parking lot.

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