The wave of sound builds from the bottom of the lower bowl to the very top of MetLife Stadium. Every seat is filled, and the place rocks with energy and anticipation.
Indeed, it couldn’t be any louder if the Giants or Jets were playing in a Super Bowl there.
Except there’s no football game about to kick off. It’s one of 14 NFL and 19 overall stadium stops for Kenny Chesney on his five-month, 42-show “Trip Around The Sun” tour earlier this year. And the musical magic about to be created rivals anything the place has ever seen.
For country music’s biggest star — Chesney is the only country act in Billboard’s Top 10 touring artists of the last quarter-century — and a nominee for a ninth Entertainer of the Year honor at next week’s CMA awards show, the marriage of music and sports is a natural.
“When I was growing up, I had two passions: sports and music,” Chesney says. “They were things that made you feel even more alive, and they lifted you up. It was almost hard to separate the way playing football made you feel from how being at a great concert was. Music is such a primal force: it’s inside us, without thinking.
“I think playing sports is the same way. How you feel when you’re on the field, that immediate rush is the ultimate high. When I started playing for tips and burritos at Quarterback’s, it was the same thing — only less intense, because there were so many variables. But as time went on, as I learned about writing songs, really dialing in on life and performing so I know I’m reaching people at the back of the room, that intensity of how it feels when it’s right became the same thing. When the drum kicks, the lights start and you can hear the crowd even before the curtain falls, it’s like that first play of the night. … It’s on, and there’s nowhere in the world you’d rather be.”
Chesney spends up to three hours on the stage performing a collection of hits pretty much unequaled among contemporaries in any music genre. It’s an exhausting trip for virtually everyone: band members, stagehands, crew and, of course, the audience. And it’s worth every second.
NFL games generally last about that long and can create the same aura.
“If we do it right, hopefully we wring every spec of energy out of the fans,” Chesney explains. “Sometimes you can feel a slight ebb during the last song. But what’s more likely to happen, the energy feeds itself, so by the end, they’re hitting a whole other plateau. They may sleep til 2 the next day, but they’re bringing it hard, and they’re not quitting.