Though the last song of the night at Friday’s Brothers of the Sun show in Foxborough was a cover of Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty,” the performers were firing on all cylinders all night (and even a good part of the day).
The show, which was headlined by Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw kicked off promptly at 4:30, with Jake Owen beginning his set to a less than half-full house. Owen excelled in this low-key environment, premiering a couple new songs and holding out his mic for the audience to sing along to tunes like “Barefoot Bluejean Night.”
As the sun went down Grace Potter and the Nocturnals took the stage and cranked up the volume. Making sure the night was a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, she wore her trademark flying V guitar and a T-shirt that said “Attitude is Always Amazing.” As fans started to filter in with blinking flower necklaces they had bought at the merch tables, the atmosphere at Gillette Stadium became even more festive. Potter, who was raised in Vermont, is known to most country fans for her participation on Chesney’s “You and Tequila,” a song which she guested with him later on in the night. Potter closed her set with a rendition of the song Joan Jett made famous, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and got the crowd singing along.
By the time McGraw took the stage it was easy to see why people have been calling the Brothers of the Sun tour one of the biggest country music events that the New England area has ever seen. Although he opened with “Felt Good on my Lips,” from his latest album, “Emotional Traffic,” McGraw’s set drew mostly from his older classics like “Real Good Man,” “Last Dollar (Fly Away)” and “Unbroken.”
One of the highlights of his set was the ballad, “Better Than I Used to Be,” from the new album. Introducing the song, he said, “Today I am gonna be a better husband, friend and a better American,” which led the crowd to burst into screams that lasted throughout much of the song. The song is vintage McGraw, featuring confessional lyrics like, “I ain’t no angel/I’ve still got a few more dances with the devil/I’m cleaning up my act little by little/I’m getting there/I can finally stand the man in the mirror I see.”
Ending the set with “Live Like You Were Dying,” the crowd wouldn’t let him leave without an encore. He came out for three last songs with “The Cowboy in Me,” “I Like It, I Love It” and “Truck Yeah!”
Chesney entered the stadium from the middle of the field and kicked off with “Beer in Mexico.” And he flew over the crowd in his seat while performing his second song, “Summertime” and finally landed on the main stage. Sporting blue jeans, a T-shirt and a cowboy hat, he engaged the crowd from the beginning saying how he has missed being in Boston but was glad to be back. While that would possibly seem like lip service from any other performer, when you sing a song about a girl who hides her baby dreads under a Red Sox cap, it seems much more sincere. When he played that song, he traded in his famous cowboy hat for a baseball cap with a B on it and the crowd erupted. His set was energetic throughout, and focused mostly on his older material with occasional selections from his recent, “Welcome to the Fishbowl” album. But the real fun of the evening was still yet to come.
After playing “The Boys of Fall” Chesney left the stage and returned with McGraw for a rendition of their recent single, “Feel Like a Rock Star” and “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” both songs which appear on Chesney albums. The pair then tore through McGraw’s “Indian Outlaw.” By the time all four featured performers were onstage playing “Running on Empty” it was clear that neither the performers nor the crowd were out of gas. And though the tour ends after tonight’s performance, it seemed like they still have enough fuel to take the show around the country once more.