Kelsea Ballerini Concert Review: A Homecoming To Remember
Kelsea Ballerini made her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, proud last night (11/2). She performed her first-ever headlining arena show dubbed “The Homecoming Show.” I was one of a handful of journalists who traveled via bus from Nashville to the show in Knoxville. It was a trip to remember.
Before the show got underway, Kelsea stopped backstage to say hi. She told us that she had been crying all day, filled with emotions. Ballerini noted that she played the place where she saw her very first concert when she was young. That concert was Britney Spears. She even recalled the section of the Thompson Boling Arena she sat in, pointing it out.
Ballerini pulled out all the stops for the massive show. The setlist included every country radio hit she has enjoyed. But she also played some rare songs that she doesn’t sing in concert much anymore. After her entrance, she played two songs and the roar of the crowd was deafening. Kelsea took a moment to look the familiar group over and smiled as big as she could. It was clear she felt at home, and this was a career moment for her. She told the screaming audience, “Wow, it’s just been the craziest year of my life. I had to end it well. And I had to end it with people that I love and that I trust, and that’s you.”
At one point, she put on a dazzled Tennessee Vols jacket. She began to sing the CMA-winning duet “Half My Hometown” that she recorded with Kenny Chesney. She stopped the song after the first few lines and said, “I can’t be in Knoxville and not sing this song with Kenny Chesney.” The crowd knew what was next and screamed with delight as Chesney entered the stage. He told him and Kelsea’s hometown, “Kelsea said backstage, ‘Don’t make me cry up here.’ I’m not gonna make her cry, but I do want to say just how proud I am of Kelsea and her band. Tonight is very special, and I’m thrilled to be back in East Tennessee to celebrate Kelsea Ballerini.” The two then hugged and sang their duet as they walked down the stage walkway.
Ballerini even jumped into the audience at one point and high-fived as many fans as she could, ending up on a “b- stage” to sing some of her rare gems acoustically. Her vocals with just a guitar were wonderful and made one think that she should win the CMA’s Female Vocalist award next week, although she has some stiff competition from Lainey Wilson and others.
Once she stepped back on the big stage, she performed her big hit “Peter Pan,” dressed in a black jump suit and dangled from a star above the stage. After she finished the performance, she stepped back on the solid ground of the stage, noting how scary it was to be that high and swing while she sang. Later, on the bus back to Nashville, a rep from her record label explained how brave she was to do that as she is quite afraid of heights.
All in all, Kelsea showed no fear at last night’s show, and before she sang her last song with just a guitar, she told the audience, “If there’s one thing you hear from me tonight, it’s thank you. My mom is here, my dad’s here, my boyfriend’s here. My boyfriend’s mom is here, my high school chorus teacher is here, my childhood best friends are here. And you are here. Thank you.”
She closed the show by saying how thankful she was. With a guitar alone on stage, she sang, “What I Have” as the crowd of friends, family, and fans sang along to every word.