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Country music: Kenny Chesney weathers storm in return to Des Moines

Des Moines Register logo Des Moines Register 5/17/2019 Aaron Calvin

Kenny Chesney's introductory video montage was cut short as soon as it began Thursday evening when the big screen suddenly cut to black. 

Booming thunder from the storm that crashing upon the city could be heard even within the walls of the Wells Fargo Arena. 

Ten long minutes elapsed while nervous "Kenny" chants rose and fell before the modern country music star appeared again to welcome everyone to the "Songs for the Saints" tour.

Kenny Chesney performs at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Thursday, May 16, 2019. © Zach Boyden-Holmes/Speical to The Register Kenny Chesney performs at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Thursday, May 16, 2019.

The video projected the Caribbean sun out into the venue as Chesney and friends famous and not smiled, played and drank Chesney-owned Blue Chair Bay Rum. 

As the video concluded, a howling crowd greeted the man himself as he appeared in a blue tank top, blue jeans and curled white cowboy hat.

Leading the band, Chesney ripped through the opening set of songs with a practiced buoyancy and easy familiarity that put at ease the Iowa segment of his fan base, a part of a mass of fans he's dubbed No Shoes Nation. 

Chesney's warm and twangy baritone easily filled the cavernous arena and any of the ominous portents brought about by the outside storm melted away like the ice in a glass of the rum-based specialty cocktails available at the concessions.

"We apologize for the delay, it's really stormy outside," Chesney shrugged when he finally took a moment to pause after "Till It's Gone" before heading into "Summertime."

It's oddly appropriate that Chesney's show would be slightly blown adrift by a storm. After all, the enduring presence of country music radio stations was touring in support of 18th studio album, "Songs for the Saints."

The album is an attempt to reckon with the devastation Hurricane Irma bore down upon the Virgin Islands, the Carribean island where the deeply private Chesney spends a great deal of time when he's not touring. 

When the hurricane made landfall, it razed the tropical paradise to the ground, including the house the massively popular musician had built on its shores. 

Moments of somber hope from the album inflected the 22 song, hour and forty-five-minutes long tour of Chesney's numerous chart-topping hits. This included the lead single "Get Along," an anthem of togetherness oozing with downhome charm.

"Everything Will Be Alright," a Chesney-fied riff on the Bob Marley standard that was invoked toward the end of the night, clearly written to console by himself and his island neighbors, stood out as a unique addition in well-trod territory. David Lee Murphy, a contemporary of Chesney's who played an opening set of his own, joined him in support. 

But if the wrinkles around Chesney's gleaming white smile had gotten a little deeper or his deeply tanned brow any wearier since his previous visit to Des Moines, almost exactly four years ago at the same venue, it went unnoticed, overshadowed by an effortless showmanship. 

Prancing and jumping, calling out and thanking the crowd effusively, the 51-year-old titan of the modern country landscape moved through a selection of his Billboard Hot Country high-charting hits "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem," "I Go Back" and "How Forever Feels."

The one downtempo song of the set, "You And Tequila," a duet with opener Caroline Jones, didn't put a dent in the enraptured fans in thrall. 

a person standing on a stage: Kenny Chesney performs at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Thursday, May 16, 2019. © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. Kenny Chesney performs at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines Thursday, May 16, 2019.

A brief gesture toward ending the set proceeded a night-sealing performance of the iconically goofy song that helped cement Chesney in the hearts of country fans two decades ago: "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy."

As the goofy paean to farm boy ego and masculine objectification played out, Chesney gifted one lucky fan a guitar while leaning down to sign shirts and hats.

No matter the losses endured at the hands of indifferent nature, it seemed impossible for him to be anywhere but where he was, regaling singalong crowds with tales of youth, love and beer. 

Follow the Register on Facebook and Twitter for more news. Aaron Calvin can be contacted at acalvin@dmreg.com or on Twitter @aaronpcalvin.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Country music: Kenny Chesney weathers storm in return to Des Moines

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