When Kenny Chesney walked offstage at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, on Aug. 25, 2018, he would never have guessed it would be four years before he’d set foot on that stage again. But even with rescheduling the tour, a change of lineup and waiting more than 1,000 days, Chesney’s “Here and Now 2022 Tour” saw the high-energy performer sell 1,296,079 tickets.
“Here and Now” broke 14 personal records and placed Chesney at No. 7 on Pollstar’s third quarter recap of ticket revenue, topping $114.4 million. His final three stadium dates, which will be added to the year-end box office count, bring the tour’s gross to $135 million.
“The thing about Kenny is the show is really about the fans and the fun in the moment,” explained Kate McMahon, executive vice president at Messina Touring Group, who handles marketing for the Austin, Texas-based promoter. “I’m a big believer in ‘music as medication,’ and that there is a show for whatever feeling you need.
“Kenny came back when we all needed to feel fun and alive and leave the sadness and stress of the pandemic behind, even if just for a few hours. At the very first show, the overall vibe was grateful – and that vibe permeated from the bands, the crew, the fans. Maybe this is too sappy, but maybe we all got a glimpse of life without live shows, and when the opportunity came back, we all embraced the hell out of it.”
It was a summer to remember for the eight-time Entertainer of the Year. It was not only the longest he’d gone without playing shows since his emergence as a hard ticket headliner, it also marked a year where – in an attempt to accommodate the increased demand for tickets – the stage was moved further back into the end zone in several markets.
“I wanted anyone who wanted to come to be able to,” Chesney wrote in an email. “Having waited so long for music to come back, I know that wanting to get out there and feel-alive- again feeling only a concert can give you. Honestly, being onstage has never felt that electric! No Shoes Nation has always been a very passionate place, but this year, the energy was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
Messina Touring Group Executive Vice President Rome McMahon, the man charged with finance and routing, often found himself working with the stadiums and touring personnel to create more seats as demand increased. In some markets, the stage was so far in the end zone, there was no passage from one side to the other on the actual field.
“Once the stage is in position, we always go in and open as many seats as possible,” McMahon said. “The most important thing is to make sure the fans can always see Kenny and have a great experience. The show was built with that in mind, with swept back side video screens and targeted sound coverage all the way up the sides.
“We try to minimize the upstage footprint as much as possible to squeeze back a few more feet where we can and where we need it. All this effort translates into more seat inventory, because demand for this tour was incredible. The amazing thing was the majority of the fans held onto their tickets, many for over 1,000 days just to see Kenny and this tour. And there was always demand for any refunded tickets once we re-opened them.”
With the April 23 kick-off at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium seeing 58,369 people besting Chesney’s 2018 personal record of 55,292 by more than 3,000, it set an intense tone for the summer.
Other key markets and stadiums hitting new records included Nashville’s Nissan Stadium (57,211), AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (50,033), Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia (55,519), Kansas City’s GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (57,852), Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High (60,023), MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey (59,999) and Detroit’s Ford Field (49,725) and the tour-ending doubleheader at Gillette Stadium (122,021).
“We didn’t know what the time away was going to mean,” Chesney wrote. “You want to believe it will be the same, but four years is a lot of time, especially the way everything moves so fast. We were all surprised at how many people held their tickets for so long, but that’s the thing most people miss about No Shoes Nation: they’re invested in this culture we’ve built together.
“What became obvious starting in Tampa was that they hadn’t lost any of their hunger for this music. If anything, they were more passionate than they were in 2018, 2015, or any of the years we’ve set records. This year’s audiences were something else, and it made being out there the greatest experience any of us have ever had on an entire tour.”
Chesney’s focus since becoming a stadium-sized headliner in 2005 has been making affordable tickets available for fans. McMahon agreed, “It’s very important to Kenny to try and provide a price point for every fan. There are more expensive tickets that have a VIP element to them, but there are also ‘Hey, I got my foot in the door’ type tickets – and everything in between. We have access to more sophisticated tools now that allow for a quick assessment. But what probably makes it different is that I can talk to Kenny directly. He’ll tell me exactly what he wants, so there’s no guesswork involved.”
With two hour-plus sets, surprise guests, his SiriusXM No Shoes Radio channel capturing all the action behind the scenes, and a show that never slows down except for an occasional ballad, the “Here and Now Tour” took the anticipation and turned it into pure energy. Sponsored by Blue Chair Bay Rum and powered by Marathon, it continued Chesney’s decade-plus of million ticket-selling summers.