ON THE ROAD WITH KENNY CHESNEY

What was it really like behind the scenes of his hit No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems Tour? We asked Kenny himself to tell us!

Story by Kenny Chesney

West Palm Beach, Fla., to a lot of people is a place of relaxation. A vacation destination on the Atlantic Ocean. But for me, at the end of January of this year, it was anything but.

West Palm Beach - where we started the madness that was the No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems Tour. My first headlining tour! My first time crisscrossing the interstates of America as the guy going on last.

Being a headliner is risky business, but last year, while on tour with Tim [McGraw], it felt like the fans were telling me it was time. Still, waking up on my bus outside Mars Music Center in West Palm, I was scared to death. What if nobody comes? There are a lot of seats out there to fill. I asked myself all day while shooting baskets with my guys: "Am I really ready for this?"

Before this year, I'd sometimes leave the bus and walk to the stage to peek at the crowd to see how big it was. That night in Florida, I stayed on the bus. I was too scared to look!

As the guys and I met in the dressing room to do our ritual, I could feel the energy of the crowd. As "You Shook Me All Night Long" played, I could hear the crowd singing along. David Farmer, my road manager, and I looked at each other and just grinned. I asked, "How many people are out there?," but he wouldn't tell me. He said, "I want you to see it for yourself when you hit that stage."

Eight years of touring - an emotional roller coaster ride where the highs were really high, the lows really low - led to this moment. When the screen I appear from behind opened that night, I saw 11,000 fans in front of me. I could hardly sing that first song 'cause my heart was racing so fast. I couldn't believe it. I looked at my band and said, "Let's just throw it at them and see what they throw back."

And that's what we did!

All year long we threw it at them, playing on the same stages our musical heroes played and still play. Sometimes on tour the cities can run together in your mind, but I remember something about each and every night on this tour. There were nights I was sure it couldn't get any better - only to have the next crowd correct me. Nights like Tallahassee, Fla.; Greenville; S.C., Huntington, W.Va.; or Madison, Wis. The crowd was so loud at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., I stopped my show to give my band a high five 'cause their dream was coming true, too. That was the turning point, the night I felt something magic happen - the night we knew we were headliners, for sure.

Our tour's first leg was all arenas, but we soon moved to the outdoor amphitheaters for the summer. While the arena shows were a success, the outdoor shows were a whole different animal. I felt like I was starting all over again, battling my insecurities about headlining.

The first weekend calmed my fears.

Read the rest of Kenny's experiences on his No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems Tour in his own words in the current (10/29/02) "Newsstand Issue" on sale now!

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