Kenny Chesney

Live: Live Those Songs Again

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If Kenny Chesney wasn't going to save the album title of Live Those Songs Again for a career-spanning retrospective, he might as well use it on a live album, even though it does bear an unfortunate and unintentional double meaning when attached to a live album -- as is in, "Live!...Those Songs Again." Familiar though they may be, these Chesney songs don't quite sound as weary as that, particularly because Chesney gives them the widescreen spectacular treatment for his stadium shows, which this 2006 live release fairly faithfully documents. In an arena setting, Chesney's AOR roots ring out loud and clear, to the point where he sounds less a country singer than an heir to '80s heartland rock -- an association he openly courts within the liner notes of the album, where he name-drops Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp (misspelled as "Mellancamp"), and Bryan Adams and is seen sporting a "Bruce Live 1975-1985" shirt. He pulls off these mid-America arena rock moves well, but not with a lot of flair; in fact, he's sometimes overshadowed by his slicked-up, pumped-up band. Even if Chesney does wind up disappearing into the atmosphere at his own party, it almost seems like he's playing the gracious host, letting his band and audience enjoy the show more than he does, because it's about them, not him. As such, this album is fun for fans but otherwise not that compelling: it's a souvenir to a old party and could serve as a soundtrack to a new party, but when subjected to close listening, it pales next to Chesney's precisely crafted studio records. After all, such precision pays off in the studio, but tends to sound a little canned on-stage.

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