Country superstar Kenny Chesney’s “2008 Poets and Pirates Tour” finally came to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia on Sat. April 26, with over 44,000 fans in attendance. Unfortunately, during the first songs of his set, a malfunction with the stage risers led to a bizarre mishap. [image-1]

City Paper writer Greg Hambrick was there! He filed this report on Monday morning:

“God bless Brooks and Dunn, but people didn’t pay more than $100 a ticket (some really close seats were auctioned for nearly $500) to see those two walk around the stage singing about honky tonk women.

[image-2]That was likely what was going through Kenny Chesney’s mind as, just seconds after his band started playing, he got his foot caught in the platform as he was rising in the middle of the field. The jumbo screens showed Chesney pulling at the strap on his foot while the band kept playing ‘Live Those Songs Again.’ While some fans wondered if he’d be able to perform at all, Chesney picked up with the last verse of the song and struggled through the nearly two-hour set, hobbling from one end of the large stage to the other. Around the fifth song, stagehands brought out a stool, but it served as a table for Chesney’s cocktail for most of the night. He may have been suffering through it for the fans — but it was pretty painful to watch.

[image-3]Injury aside, everybody put on their best party hats (mostly of the cowboy and trucker variety) and went along with all the sure-fire crowd pleasers. ‘Beer in Mexico,’ ‘Young,’ ‘Back Where I Came From,’ and ‘She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,’ gave the tiki bar feel the crowd had been expecting. Chesney had said earlier in the week that the set would be high-energy. It was, but his injury left the fans in a lot of ways on their own.

A set with Uncle Craker was a bit too much of a throw back to Chesney’s tours three or four years ago, with Cracker’s hits ‘Follow Me’ and ‘Drift Away’ (originally by Dobie Gray) and a nearly inaudible version of Kid Rock’s “Cowboy.” An impromptu version of ‘You Never Even Call Me By My Name’ was a highlight, with Cracker and the night’s opening acts (Luke Bryan and Greg Allen) pitching in to provide the kind of good-times sing-a-long you’d imagine around the juke box at the last bar before you get too deep in the holler.

While Chesney’s set may have been pained, Brooks & Dunn got around the stage just fine. A Brooks & Dunn hot air ballon flew overtop the stage as the pair started their set (take that indoor arenas!). ‘Neon Moon’ was a slow number that still kept the crowd on their feet. ‘Only In America’ had the crowd bursting with patriotism as four military service members marched on stage, with red white, and blue streamers bursting into the air. And, though it’d been years since we’d done the dance, just a few bars into the chorus of ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie’ and our feet were going ‘heel to toe.’

Leanne Rimes gave a few new singles, but mainly stuck with the older hits the crowd could sing along with. An added bonus: her modern-pop reworking of Cheap Trick’s ‘I Want You To Want Me.’ But what the crowd couldn’t stop talking about was Rimes outfit (no, really). She had a short dress that looked like a University fo South Carolina jersey. A group of college students heading out of the stadium were talking about how to make the outfit for themselves.

Allen and Bryan gave good opening acts, but played to a smaller crowd as the audience continued partying outside and milling around inside. Those who missed Bryan lost out on a terrific set, including his hit ‘All My Friends Say.’ He may not have the singles Chesney does, but he had the perpetual performer’s stage presence down pat.

Chesney couldn’t put on his best show. But the four solid acts in front of him meant the crowd didn’t feel jipped. That said, they were likely were glad he suffered through.”

(photos by Greg “Bootscoot” Hambrick)