Nashville: While he’s the only country act in Pollstar’s Top Tours of 2009’s Top 10 – finishing at #6 with a gross of $71.1 million, Keith Urban being next at #16 – but more impressively, after only 8 of the new century’s first 10 years spent as a headliner, the high energy performer still came in as the #2 most attended and #3 highest earning tour of the 21st century’s first decade. Granted 5 of those years saw Kenny Chesney headlining multiple NFL stadiums, but it’s still an achievement he finds staggering.
“I remember how good it felt when I was selling out small halls and bars, and you can tell everyone “I sold the show out…,” Chesney says with a laugh. “You know that idea that there are no more tickets left, no matter how small the venue, it’s exciting – and you can feel it in the crowd. So, when you start playing bigger and bigger places, you want to keep that… the energy you have, and the excitement when you hear you’ve gone clean in a venue.”
“But even as you’re hearing that stuff, there’s still some sense of, well, it’s not real. You sell out Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium 5 years in a row – it’s not ho-hum…. and it’s still more things people say than real until you walk out onstage, hear the crowd and go, ‘WOW!’ Because in a weird way, these numbers – especially to a guy from Luttrell, TN who thought they had it made playing the Turf in Nashville one New Year’s Eve – are surreal.”
Ironically, the only act who outdrew Chesney for the decade was good friend and duet partner Dave Matthews, well established as a headliner in the last 90s. For sheer gross, Celine Dion’s historic Vegas residency put her at #2 – with DMB earning $529 million, Dion bringing in $522 million and Chesney earning an impressive $455 million with aggressively low ticket prices. Rounding out the decade’s Top 10 are stalwarts Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna, the Eagles, Elton John and Jimmy Buffett.
“You look at those names, and you look around,” the 4-consecutive Academy of Country Music and 4-time Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year concedes. “Every name on that list is a serious performer whose songs have made a mark on how people live their lives, how they mark their passages – and to be on a list with those sorts of icons really makes me pause and think about all of it…
“Because to be honest, for me and the guys, it’s really more about the next show, the next chance to get up onstage and rock. That energy… the way the fans throw it back at us, sing these songs like they are their lives… well, that is, hands down, the greatest feeling in the world!’
The names on the 2009 list are pretty impressive, too. With U2’s stadium-only tour coming in at #1, it’s Bruce Springsteen, Elton John & Billy Joel, Britney Spears and AC/DC making the top 5 – and the Jonas Bros, Dave Matthews, Fleetwood Mac and Metallica closing out the Top 10 tours of the year. With a 3-D moving coming in April, who knows what 2010 holds for country’s biggest draw?