REVIEW: “No Shoes Nation” is this year’s hot country tour

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 10:58 pm on Friday, April 26, 2013

The Eli Young Band was second in the lineup of artists during Kenny Chesney’s “No
Shoes Nation” tour Thursday night in Grand Rapids. Daily News/Kelli Ameling

GRAND RAPIDS — Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing James Young of country group The Eli Young Band, who returned to Grand Rapids on Thursday night as part of Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes Nation” tour.

Young expressed the group’s excitement about returning to the area to perform for fans.

“We performed a few times in Michigan,” Young said. “We love coming back.”

The “No Shoes Nation” tour started in mid-March in Florida and runs through the end of August. The show also includes Kacey Musgraves.

Young said the band’s experience on the tour is one they won’t forget, saying it’s a party wherever they go.

“It’s a blast and a dream come true opening for (Chesney),” Young said.

Country singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves opened the
Grand Rapids show Thursday night as part of Kenny
Chesney’s “No Shoes Nation” tour. Daily News/Kelli Ameling

While working to become a well-known country group, Young said Chesney is a country singer they have always looked up to.

The group’s “rocking-edge” country music is something not to miss. During Thursday’s performance at the Van Andel Arena, the group gave it their all and it showed.

From powerful ballads to high-energy favorites, the Eli Young Band knew how to work the crowd.

The band’s performance — whether through the instruments played or the lead vocals of Mike Eli — was impressive.

Not many people were left in their seats as they sang along to favorites such as “Crazy Girl” and “Always the Love Songs.”

Best known for her hit “Merry Go ‘Round” and writing Miranda Lambert’s hit single “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Musgraves, an up-and-coming country music artist, opened Thursday’s show.

With a beautiful voice and a talent to play multiple instruments, Musgraves surprised me with her performance.

After hearing her songs about relatable experiences — along with her songwriting gift — she has a new fan.

Being a newer singer did show a little as Musgraves seemed a little shy and didn’t move around much on stage. During the last song of her performance, she started to open up a little more and lightly danced around with her bandmates, which is something I wish I would have seen more of as it really showed her having fun.

Musgraves is someone to keep an eye on as she grows as a country artist and songwriter.

Chesney, of course, stole the show Thursday night.

Young was right when he said the tour is like a party, because I have never had as much fun at a concert as I did Thursday night.

Chesney’s high-energy performance kept the crowd on their feet all night long — no matter how bad their feet might have hurt from wearing heels or cowboy boots.

Usually at male-headliner concerts, the crowd is mainly comprised of women with only a handful of men who were forced to go with their wife or girlfriend. This was not the case Thursday.

Kenny Chesney rocked the Van Andel Arena on Thursday night as part
of his “No Shoes Nation” tour, which also featured the Eli Young Band
and Kacey Musgraves. Daily News/Kelli Ameling

With his relatable songs, and likable personality, the crowd was evenly split between men and women who were dancing and singing along throughout the night and reaching out for that quick high-five from Chesney by the stage.

I have never watched a performer work the stage and crowd like Chesney did — I swear, this is the secret to Chesney’s workout. Very rarely did he hold still as he ran, jogged and even skipped around stage to make sure all his fans were staying happy and upbeat.

His performance showed how passionate he is about his job and how much he loves what he does.

Chesney had a good balance of old and new songs along with ballads and fast-beat country music. He sang everything from “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” to “Pirate Flag.” He even delivered an emotional performance of an older favorite of “There Goes My Life,” which left many in the audience teary-eyed, but wanting more.

Chesney’s phenomenal performance and lineup is one tour not to miss this summer. No matter what the ticket price or where the seat is located, the concert is worth it.

“No Shoes Nation” will be making another visit to Michigan on Aug. 17 at Ford Field in Detroit, which is also scheduled to include Eric Church.

For a complete list of tour dates, visit

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