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The Navigator

A little twang will buck the Ray Jay trend

By RICK GERSHMAN
Published June 30, 2006


In this space I often try to steer you toward something a little off the beaten path, something different, something you might not have been considering.

Not this week.

If you're a fan of popular country music, you don't need me to tell you superstar Kenny Chesney and several similarly red-hot friends are performing Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.

That's right, they're rocking Ray Jay, marking the first concert in five years at the New Sombrero. It's been pretty much nothing but football and monster trucks since then.

Why so long between music shows?

Well, the last one was in 'N Sync, back in 2001. And if you think field repairs can be costly after football games, imagine what it was like after someone let stocky songbird Joey Fatone graze the south end zone all afternoon.

Regardless, the home of the Buccaneers is opening this weekend for tens of thousands of fans. When tickets for the Kenny Chesney and Friends tour went on sale April 22, it set a record for the largest Ticketmaster presale to date.

The She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy crooner should feel at home as one of the only artists to have played at Ray Jay before: He opened for George Strait's 1999 show, which drew about 60,000 attendees.

Joining the diminutive former Mr. Renee Zellweger are hot draws Gretchen Wilson and Big & Rich, Dierks Bentley and 2005 American Idol winner Carrie Underwood.

They've all played the Tampa Bay area fairly recently, but you can believe country fans from 50 miles will be pouring in for the show.

Sure, it might be a little tough in the stadium to see the sleeveless superstar, who stands about 3-foot-6 - even in his omnipresent cowboy boots and hat.

But Chesney makes up for his stature in star power, which puts him right at home on the field of Super Bowl champions.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or 226-3431. His Times blog, the Ill Literate, is at www.tampabay.com/blogs/tampaarts.

IF YOU GO

Kenny Chesney and Friends perform Saturday at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $29.50-$89.50. Call 287-8844.

[Last modified June 29, 2006, 10:25:39]


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