BANGOR, Maine — Sixteen thousand people, many of them sporting straw cowboy hats, western boots and a freewheeling attitude, packed the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion to enjoy one of the biggest concerts of the year — country superstar Kenny Chesney.
The concert had been sold out since the spring, and the huge attendance was on par with Phish in early July. Chesney, who has recorded 15 albums, 14 of which have gone either gold or platinum, has a huge back catalog of hits to draw from, and he did not disappoint, opening the show with his 2012 hit “Feel Like a Rock Star,” which was originally recorded with Tim McGraw.
The Tennessee native — beloved by fans for his mixture of country vocals and a musical style that draws from rock, folk, reggae and calypso as much as it does country — thanked his fans repeatedly throughout the show. Crystal Tompkins of Lewiston and her friend, Katie, spent the afternoon at Hollywood Casino and then came over to the concert during opener Kacey Musgraves’ set. They were visibly excited to be at the concert, sporting jean shorts, tank tops and cowboy hats and boots.
“I love him. He’s just all about good times,” said Tompkins, 25. “He just makes you feel good. I’ve never seen him in concert, so I am really excited we got tickets. We got them as soon as they came out.”
Other hits played included “Reality,” “Beer in Mexico,” “Keg in the Closet,” “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem” and countless others, over the course of a show that started just before 8:45 p.m. With more than 30 top ten singles in the U.S., he’s got lots to choose from.
Chesney’s stage show combines his signature pirate flag emblem with multiple hi-def TVs and a massive light show — the spotlights used could be seen shining on the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, and the music could be heard throughout downtown. Multiple days of dry weather meant the wet ground issues of the past few weeks were largely resolved — no smell, no mud, no problem.
Openers Kacey Musgraves and the Eli Young Band both plied a tough-talking kind of country, Musgraves with her no-nonsense lyrical style and Eli Young with his heartfelt, rock-inspired country.
Concert goers also got to enjoy a surprise treat in the Ferris wheel and Gravitron set up near the Pavilion, ready for the KahBang Festival, which kicks off tomorrow. A number of attendees could be seen observing the thousands of people packed into the venue from the wheel, enjoying the cool summer night; others could be heard squealing with delight as they rode the Gravitron.
Up next in the Waterfront Concert series is a doubleheader of stand-up comedy featuring Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall on Aug. 17, and pop star Kesha on Aug. 30. For more information, visit waterfrontconcerts.com.