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But where was Renee?

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Kenny Chesney with Gretchen Wilson and Uncle Kracker Alltel Arena May 12 The only people who left last Thursday night’s Kenny Chesney/Gretchen Wilson/Uncle Kracker show disappointed were hoping to (a) catch a glimpse of Chesney’s new bride, the comely actress Renee Zellweger, or (b) catch a glimpse of Chesney without his shirt on. And to be fair, there was more than enough video footage of Chesney gamboling bare-chested in the ocean to satisfy even the most dedicated fan of his upper body. Judging by the response of the 14,309 fans in attendance, the nowhere-to-be-seen Zellweger was the least of anyone’s concern. There’s a method to Chesney’s madness when it comes to mixing music genres, and with the exception of maybe one or two, he did his best to try to cover them all over the course of his two-hour show. From classic country (a soulful cover of Conway Twitty’s “Lay You Down”) and classic rock (a duet with Wilson on John Mellencamp’s “Hurts So Good”) to blue-eyed soul (Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”) and even rap (another duet, this one with warm-up act Uncle Kracker on Kid Rock’s “Cowboy”), Chesney strutted the length of the music spectrum. Chesney even borrowed a page from the Book of Buffett (Jimmy, that is) when he took an acoustic turn on his salute to island life, “Old Blue Chair,” sitting in, appropriately, an old blue chair. Wilson’s days as an opening act are numbered. The sultry brunette, wearing a leopard-print tank top and jeans only slightly tighter than Chesney’s, won the crowd over with her mixture of sex and sass. Her hour-long set focused on her country roots, with “Pocahontas Proud” offering a poignant tale of growing up in a small town (Pocahontas, Ill.). Perhaps in deference to the sisters who share her last name, Wilson spiced up Heart’s “Straight On” before tearing into Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” more than likely the first time it’s ever been performed by someone on a slide guitar. “Who said rednecks can’t rock and roll?” challenged Wilson, who concluded her set with “Redneck Woman,” her anthem for women who prefer ball caps to ball gowns, and “Here for the Party.” As for Uncle Kracker, it’s safe to say that his blend of rap and rock had those in the boots-and-buckle crowd scratching their heads. The younger members of the audience seemed to enjoy his casual manner, cheering for his covers of “Drift Away” and “Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Somewhere, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show are waiting on a residual check. — By Tim Taylor

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