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Arts & Music

Chesney, McGraw ignite country jam at Tampa kickoff

Special correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 04:33 PM

Country megastars Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw combined forces and initiated a rowdy shindig Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium.

"Although Nashville is the alleged country music capital, it seems rather interesting that the predicted 'concert of the decade' kicked off in Tampa, and was aptly named, Brothers of the Sun tour. Just saying," says Tampa resident Megan Duvall.

The 22-city stadium co-headlining tour, which also featured opening acts Jake Owen and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, packed just about every available section in the stadium.

Fans, who poured in from all over the country, were treated to more than six hours of modern country tunes.

But as usual with stadium affairs, fans arrived way before the first act even took the stage.

"Country tailgates are the best," says local resident Lisa Harrison. And many agreed with her as they fueled up in the parking lots in preparation for a steady dose of Kenny and Tim.

"I would have not missed this for anything," said Scelena Hammerle, who said she's seen Chesney numerous times in concert. She drove from Syracuse, N.Y., to meet up with her best friend, Kim Ramadan-Papp in Orlando. From there, the two made their way to Tampa to see the country dream tag-team perform.

Opener Jake Owen easily engaged the crowd with his upbeat straight-forward style. Shortly after he wrapped his 30 minute set, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals hopped on stage and kept the show moving.

But toward the end of her 35-minute set, people were clearly eager for the headliners.

McGraw strolled out at around 6:30 p.m. with the sun still shining. Armed with an arsenal of talented guitar players, his effortless journey through his classics and new songs had the audience dancing.

And the singer himself could feel the energy in the stadium, giving a nodding fist-pump after many of his songs.

Not to be outdone by his "brother," Chesney rose up from a small stage in the middle of the stadium and then hopped into a zip-line chair that ushered him over the screaming crowd onto the main stage.

And though it was obvious Chesney was here to party he first had to deal with a sound-system mishap during his opening number which prompted an audible gasp from the more than 45,000 at RayJay.

He and his band survived the scary eight-seconds and embarked on a remarkable two-hour musical expedition. As Chesney plowed through his spirited up-tempo catalog about life in paradise, he took time to shake hands of people in the crowd and sign a few hats and posters.

Chesney also worked in some strong ballads which were elevated by the traditional stage lighting.

While singing "The Boys of Fall," he acknowledged the Tampa Bay Buccaneers latest signing, bringing tight end Dallas Clark out on stage.

The headliners and their bands joined forces to close the place down with a rowdy country jam that made you wish you were on stage with the brothers.