Tennessee-bred megastar Kenny Chesney becomes the first country singer to get his own 3D showcase in “Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D,” and given his 35 million records sold, he seems the most likely candidate for the honor. Sound is crystal-clear, and unobtrusive stereoscopic footage looks great throughout the 99-minute feature, though some weird compositional snafus scuttle the desired concert experience, and the set’s lack of variety makes it a fans-only proposition. But with the singer taking the summer off from touring, there should be plenty of those on hand for this limited engagement.
Filmed during the star’s 2009 beach-themed summer stadium tour, “Kenny Chesney: Summer in 3D” becomes something of a cruel simulacrum for those watching it in a dark theater — a vicarious experience of a concert that is itself a vicarious experience of a beach party. A seemingly linear presentation of the proceedings is broken up by vignettes of the singer’s life, mixing archival footage with Chesney’s musings on his humble beginnings and love for friends, God and football. All the “jus’ folks” soliloquies start to feel compensatory, though, when contrasted with the slick professionalism and technological complexity on display in his show.
Musically, Chesney splits the difference between Jimmy Buffett’s Club Med ditties and Garth Brooks’ populist country, though his songs can hardly compete with Brooks’, and his overly obvious sequencing does them no favors; “Beer in Mexico” is followed immediately by “Keg in the Closet” and “Out Last Night,” and the change of drinking locales does little to assauge the monotony. Chesney’s music here is less country than it is middlebrow pop in the form of country (or in two unfortunate cases, in the form of reggae), so when an actual gutsy honky-tonk ballad shows up midway through the set — the very pretty “Down the Road” — it makes the rest of the material feel trite by comparison.
Chesney’s pure sense of showmanship nonetheless deserves some credit, and the concert is expertly designed to fill a huge stadium, with a multitude of cameras catching it from an impressive array of perspectives (including a particularly nice one from immediately behind Chesney’s head, giving an idea what it might be like to be on the receiving end of so much attention). Chesney’s stage setup is predictably massive, with a cross-shaped runway extending halfway through the field level, and the star and his band seem to be in almost constant motion upon it.
Yet in trying to contain all this movement, director Joe Thomas (a concert-pic veteran) and his collaborators occasionally slip up. Pic was recorded over six different nights, and continuity is often blown wide open — at one point, Chesney’s all-black cutoff briefly becomes a vintage Pittsburgh Pirates shirt, while a few cuts splice between shots of Chesney holding a note at the end of a verse and another night’s footage of him running across the stage, giving the (mistaken) impression that the star is not actually singing his parts.
Sound engineers and mixers deserve special plaudits for an excellent mix, free of the metallic reverb that often haunts recordings of football stadium shows. Other tech credits are pro.