It’s tough not to be struck by the irony of it all. On the very day that word surfaced about the possible demise – or complete obliteration, if you want to get seriously real about it – of The Dame came the surprise announcement that country star Kenny Chesney had been booked at the club for an impromptu show on Friday.
I make no bones about my misgivings concerning the modern state of country music, just as I’ll gladly yell to the treetops that tearing down The Dame and the entire block of Main/Upper/Vine Street businesses and historical buildings surrounding it so a 40 story Godzilla with underground parking can be constructed is a serious cultural setback for downtown.
Country music, as defined by Chesney is essentially pop that is just a degree or two removed from Jimmy Buffett. Both are about as traditionally country as a C-Span special. But for anyone thinking that wiping The Dame off the face of downtown is a casual thing, keep in mind Chesney is the act that brought 16,000 fans into Rupp Arena in 2006 and 19,000 the year before that. The Dame is one of only seven college friendly clubs he will be playing as a warm-up for a spring-summer trek of ampitheatres and stadiums. The Dame didn’t even lobby for the show. Chesney’s management approached the club.
So for this week, I happily welcome Mr. Chesney back to town. Maybe, just maybe, having him playing The Dame on Friday, will make a point. Maybe the hysteria that will ignite when an artist capable of packing tens of thousands into an arena chooses to play in a Main Street club for roughly three or four hundred will illuminate the kind of downtown nightlife that could very easily disappear if The Dame gets demolished.
For that reason alone, I will, for at least one night, be one of the biggest Kenny Chesney fans in the world.
(above photo of Kenny Chesney at Rupp Arena in 2006 by Herald-Leader staff photographer Mark Cornelison)