Monday, June 2, 2003

Chesney makes hits, not history



By Chris Varias
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The connection became obvious halfway through Kenny Chesney's show at Riverbend Sunday night. Chesney, self-styled Nashville hunk, is the new Conway Twitty.

Chesney was hamming it up on a run through some good old Twitty proto-smut, "Lay You Down," and the crowd - the female portion, anyway - was heating up. Chesney and his band took long pauses at the end of each chorus, letting the girly screams sink in.

These moments, more than any others of the 90-minute set, provided the most indisputable evidences as to the connection Chesney and his trademark sleeveless, skintight T-shirts have made with the female country fan demographic.

The show drew a huge crowd and possibly the rowdiest one Riverbend will see until Jimmy Buffett rolls in later this summer. Even the boyfriends and husbands seemed to be enjoying the Chesney hit parade, beginning with "Live Those Songs," "Young," and "Big Star," and on through "How Forever Feels" and "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" and many more.

It's an impressive amount of hits amassed in a rather short career. That's why Chesney could be remembered the same as Twitty - an unstoppable hit-making machine, but also an unremarkable singer of little consequence in the course of country-music history.

Twitty's only real contribution to the country tradition was mawkish sleaze such as "Lay You Down." So far, Chesney's contribution is the advancement the pop-country hybrid. Two of his last four songs were Buffett's "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane." And the band played the riff to Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" at the end of the show as Chesney signed autographs for the front rows.

When he's not singing covers, Chesney is tapping into his favorite theme, nostalgia. He's either wishing he was in third grade (when everything was right) or in the fourth grade (when everything went wrong), or something like that. There was so much nostalgia it's hard to keep track.

When you're born in 1968, and you're singing about kissing Peggy Sue in the summer of '72, the whole glory-days thing has been taken way too far.

Somebody get the guy a time machine, so he can stop whining about the past and instead go live in it. Maybe he'll find his shirtsleeves back there.

E-mail cvarias@enquirer.com




MONDAY TEMPO STORIES
Contemporary fashion meets contemporary art
Playhouse fund-raiser promises feats of magic
Chesney makes hits, not history
Get to It: A guide to help make your day
'Nemo' sinks 'Bruce' at box office
Service tailors tunes to listener
Stay behind your thirst
Fitness Calendar
Rest, diet key to fast recovery

SUNDAY TEMPO STORIES
CAC SPECIAL SECTION
New art center opens to wows
Deals help CSO stay in synch
Reality over reruns this summer
Cincinnati theater on upswing
DEMALINE: 'Graduate' comes to Aronoff
Ovation sets two comedies, holiday show
MidPoint Music Festival gets city funds
McGURK: Madeira actor to discuss 'Blue Car'
Deana Carter makes a comeback

PEOPLE
Influential chef leaving
Officer has arresting memorabilia collection
Aunt Flora's opens its doors at last
KENDRICK: Temporary disabilities can open eyes wide

TASTE
Cincinnati chili? Or spaghetti Bolognese?
Aglamesis gives kids old-fashioned ice cream
MARTIN: Chef finds ad 'demeaning'
Wanted: Great lovers, lousy cooks

SATURDAY TEMPO STORIES
Wright at home
For doctor, roses are just as good as golf
Historic gardens on display
Model train hobbyists make tracks outside
Great lovers, Lousy cooks

HOME & GARDEN
Kids get dirty in Granny's Garden
Securing home prevents break-ins
Killing English ivy takes determination
In the know
Circle This
To do this week