Midway through his energetic, two-hour-long headlining set, 54-year-old Chesney took a moment to reflect on the similar upbringing he and 28-year-old Ballerini experienced during their childhood years, which were both spent in small towns just outside of Knoxville.
“I grew up in East Tennessee and she grew up in East Tennessee,” Chesney told the crowd. “We drove down some of the same roads together. We went to a lot of the same places to eat with our families. We listened to the same radio station, and listened to a lot of people tell us we couldn’t do certain things that have dreamed of all our life.”
As he stared out at the crowd of over 60,000 fans — many of whom had waited nearly four years for the show after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the tour to be postponed — reflected on the importance of this moment for the both of them.
“I came this town with a head full of dreams and a heart full of music,” he continued before welcoming Ballerini out onto the stage to perform their collaborative single, “Half of My Hometown.” In March, the autobiographical track from Ballerini’s 2020 album Kelsea hit No. 1, marking the seventh chart-topping single of her career and Chesney’s 35th No. 1 to date.
“When I heard this next song, this person and this song truly validated my dream and I’m very proud to stand up here,” he said. “We shared a No. 1 record and we have yet to celebrate it, so we get to celebrate in Nashville here at Nissan [Stadium] tonight.”
The powerful moment led Ballerini to break down in tears during the song’s second verse, causing Chesney to pause and embrace her in a comforting hug. You can see that sweet moment and the entire emotional performance in the fan-shot video below.
“Being here in Nashville where so many dreams came true, seeing Kelsea on the verge of making the same kind of mark, it made me realize how strong this connection is. It’s not just fun or hooks or guitar riffs, it’s one massive heart that we all share,” Chesney said after the show, according to a statement. “To have that is the greatest gift, greatest reason for doing this — and tonight really hit me in the soul.”
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