Judge Bill Gibron never realized Karl Pilkington could sing.
3D and 2D (and 1D songs) On A Single Disc!
So…this is what Garth Brooks has wrought.
Nothing personal against Mr. Chesney and his untold legion of fans, but this is not country music. Country music is Merle Haggard and George Jones. It's Little Jimmy Dickens, Roy Acuff, Conway Twitty, Eddy Arnold and…well the list can go on and on, not to mention the many amazing women of the honky tonk, including Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Lynn Anderson, Loretta Lynn…but why continue? Today's fan of the former "beer and tear" genre doesn't really understand when things went South…and sour. They don't remember the cosmopolitan crap of Urban Cowboy, the attempted retro revival of Dwight Yoakim (who is terrific, one might add), or the various reinventions of the old school. For them, country began when Brooks released the overrated "Friends in Low Places." Then, like a Hootie and Blowfish hurricane, lame-ass C&W took over. For every Randy Travis and George Strait, there were numerous flag waving witnesses to the merging of Gram Parsons and Billy Joel. It became arenas and outdoor showcasing, the clever personalized ballad replaced by bravura rock-ish anthems that all sound the same. Today, Country is just pop with cow patties. If Hank Williams could see what his lanky genius begat, he'd never stop throwing up—or drinking.
A perfect example of the lax, laid back, neo-new edge western waltz is Kenny Chesney. Again, nothing personal (and he does put on a damn fine bit of flashy fire and ten gallon hat brimstone), but names like those listed above are famous for having seminal songs that linger as some of the genre's best, not for being married and annulled from Hollywood's reigning, talent-free Cupie Doll Renee Zellwegger for an hour and a half (actually, four questionable months). Like the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and any other musical acts living on borrowed time, Chesney has decided to take his talents to 3D. The concert film that resulted is part sleeveless shirt revival, part anemic sonic drone. In between, the singer/songwriter—clearly reading from a script—discusses his Tennessee roots, small town dreams, and rise to the toppermost of the Billboard toppermost. He's so "awe shucks" and "gosh darn" that you half except a cover of John Mellancamp's "Small Town" to be playing in the background.
Since he is cavorting to packed throngs, all looking like newly spray-tanned rejects from a fraternity/sorority mixer (or, on occasion, Larry the Cable Guy's cosmopolitan cousins), the set list goes over like gangbusters. It's a nonstop barrage of feel-good phooey, including "Live Those Songs," "Beer in Mexico," "Keg in the Closet" (which manages to make college—wait, Kenny went to COLLEGE?!?!?—sound dull), and "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems." Like the Brill Building back in the '60s, Chesney works with some terrific and talented songwriters, each one trying to outwit the other with inventive ways of saying "My woman left me and I'm drunk" or "I love the simple, sh*tkicking country life!" Then, it is all filtered through the tight jean swagger of our star, so perfectly prepped for his 99 minutes of hokum and hand signs that he could give lessons. As he works through "Back Where I Come From," "Boston," "Old Blue Chair," and "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" (wait, Kenny owns a tractor?!?!?) in performances actually culled from a collection of shows Chesney played over six nights in various locations, the crowd goes ape. They are with this man 100% and no naysayer—including yours truly—can convince them of someone like Jim Reeves' superiority.
Hopefully you can tell, at this stage of the review, that there's not a lot of love around for Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D (especially since you need a souped up home video system to experience the extra added dimension). Some of the most interesting moments, potentially, are reserved for throwaway bits in between tracks. Chesney talks about playing in a driving rainstorm, and the limited footage we see is impressive. Sadly, it's over before it even really starts. Then we are told of numerous club and dive bar shows, a way of "giving back" to the fans and getting more personal (wait—the new Dallas Cowboys stadium which holds 100K plus is not up close and friendly enough?!?!?), but all we get to see are still photos. Boo! If Chesney really wants to convince us that he is more than just a carefully marketed model of what twenty-first century Nashville thinks is country, these elements would have helped. Without them, Summer in 3D does little beyond preach to the already synced up—and soused—masses.
At least the 2D version also offered on the Blu-ray looks great: colorful, bright, loaded with detail and dense "you are there" presence. You can practically smell the combination of Axe body wash, Britney Spears perfume, and failure floating up from the zombified audience. Indeed, the 1.85:1 1080p image is excellent, and the direction doesn't devolve into MTV style slop. The man behind the lens, Joe Thomas, actually holds on several moments to make us feel as if we are right there, shouting along. As for the sonic situation, we are treated to an equally terrific Dolby True HD 5.1 mix. The instruments have a lot of separation and ambience, and Chesney's vocals ring across the channels. Of course, they're still playing the same old stillborn songs, so…As for added content, you get four more tracks ("You and Me," "Don't Blink," "Guitars and Tiki Bars," and "Never Wanted Nothing More"). For the completeist and lifelong obsessive, it's just more choice Chesney goodness.
Musical taste, like sense of humor and what frightens you, is a very personal ideal. Consensus is nothing more than group hysteria or a measured mainstream conformity in these categories. There is no doubting that Kenny Chesney is a big stadium, big song, big moneymaking maverick. But if you really want to hear something "country," stick with the classics. Buck Owens' ghost would greatly appreciate it.
Guilty. Give me Faron Young anyday…
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