Talk about a hometown show Kelsea Ballerini will never forget. The East Tennessee native headlined a sold-out show at the Thompson-Boling Arena at Food City Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she was joined by Kenny Chesney, to perform their No. 1 single, “half of my hometown.”
“I couldn’t wait for the day that I could play in Knoxville, Tennessee,” an emotional Ballerini said ahead of her performance. “And I’m proud to tell you this is the first time I’ve gotten to sing this song in my hometown. I will be crying, so you might have to carry me. I left Knoxville when I was 15, to go do exactly this.
“And to be able to come back, and feel so held and so welcomed and so loved by the place that let me go, is something that I’ll never be able to say thank you enough for. But, this is my attempt,” she added.
Ballerini then began performing “half of my hometown” by herself, before stopping the song.at the beginning of the chorus.
“Can we stop?” Ballerini asked as the crowd began to scream. “I can’t be in Knoxville and sing this song without Kenny Chesney.”
— Kelsea Ballerini (@KelseaBallerini) November 4, 2023
Chesney then emerged to thunderous applause, praising Ballerini for her headlining concert.
“I’m not gonna make her cry,” Chesney said, “but I do want to say just how proud I am of Kelsea, and her band. Tonight was very special, and I’m thrilled to be back.”
Ballerini, who increased her road crew from 33 to 79 and went from three buses to eight (per Country Now) for the Knoxville concert, shared photos of the show on social media,
Ballerini previously said that being able to headline a show in the town she grew up in was more than a dream come true for her.
“It was the years where I learned to drive,” Ballerini said on Trailblazers Radio with Fancy Hagood on Apple Music Country, speaking of her nostalgia for Knoxville. “It was the years where I had my first crush, had my first boyfriend. It was the years where my parents got divorced. It was the years where I made friends that I just went on a birthday trip with still, lifelong true, true friends. I had a lot of just really life-changing good and bad experiences in that town.”
“half of my hometown” is from Ballerini’s 2020 Kelsea album. It was, perhaps ironically, a text from Chesney that inspired Ballerini to ask him to join her on the reflective track.
“He saw my name on the scrolling billboard in Times Square and took a photo of it, got my number and sent it to me and said ‘I’m so proud of you, hometown girl,’ because we’re both from Knoxville,” Ballerini, who opened for Chesney on his I Go Back Tour earlier this year, told Taste of Country Nights. “It was the most encouraging, magical thing that could have happened to me two and a half years ago. I freaked out.”