Image Credit: Whitney Pastorek/EW.comIt’s the eve of the Academy of Country Music Awards, and Nashville has blanketed Vegas with its twang: Gary Allan played poolside at the Mandalay Bay; Sugarland did a Dr. Pepper-sponsored show at the MGM; Miranda Lambert rocked Fremont Street. But the night’s most anticipated event was the premiere of Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3-D, the concert film shot as Kenny blew up America’s biggest football stadiums last year, opening nationwide April 21.
Celeb friends like Morgan Freeman, Matthew McConaughey, and Dierks Bentley were on hand — as well as Chesney’s fun-loving crew and touring band — and the audience packed two theaters at a local multiplex. Kenny appeared in both to personally introduce the screenings. “Everybody in these two theaters has been a part of our life,” he said. “This film documents our life, and thank you for being a part of it. I’m glad we documented something that shows the relationship with the fans, and I’m really proud of it.”
At heart, Summer in 3-D is an offering from the leader of a nation to his fans in exchange for a summer off. “It was a long, hot summer, and it couldn’t have happened without you,” says the film’s opening title card, before the screen explodes into a country-fried take on the same technology used to such eye-popping effect in 2008’s U2 3D. Summer features swooping wide shots of the giant venues intercut with closeups that allow for a guitar-pick’s-eye view of shows in Seattle, Pittsburgh, Philly, Boston, and Indianapolis, five nights swirled together into a greatest-hits set list including “Beer in Mexico,” “Anything But Mine,” “Young,” and “Out Last Night.”
In between blocks of songs come photo montages overscored with dreamy voiceovers in which Chesney talks about music, fans, and his love of the islands; we see him as everything from a kid in a football uniform to a megastar who hangs out with Springsteen. Two moments stand out as truly special: footage of an infamous show in Dallas last spring where rain is pouring down so hard it looks fake; and the closing performance of “Better as a Memory” from the final show in Indy, where Kenny’s tears are pouring down so hard he can’t sing and the crowd has to carry most of the song. Chesney told EW his favorite moment in the movie is “the very first chorus of ‘Summertime,’ when the stadium lights up and you see everybody in sync, just because I think it shows the energy and the passion of the fans. That’s my favorite part of the show every night. That gets me incredibly fired up.”
Director Joe Thomas (who’s helmed live projects for Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, and Dave Matthews) said he set out to emulate some aspects of his favorite concert film, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz. “The raw nature of how it was shot and the fact that it was shot from the band’s perspective is really what we were gunning for,” he said. “When Martin did that film, it didn’t matter if there were a few camera people in the way. It was organic, and it was exactly how it happened. There’s [camera] cranes in here. It makes it kinda cool.”
Now that he’s captured the stadium experience on film, is Chesney worried he’s made his concerts unnecessary? Nope. “There’s nothing like live music,” he told EW. “That’s the one thing that will never go out of style.” So what makes Summer in 3-D worth your entertainment dollar, especially if you saw the tour in person? “The extra D,” cracked trumpet player Steve Herman.
What do you think, Mixers? Who’s psyched for Chesney on the big screen? And — more importantly — do you plan to tailgate beforehand?
(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter @EWMusicMix.)
More from EW.com’s Music Mix: