Kelsea Ballerini Solidifies Her Status As An Arena Headliner With Unforgettable Hometown Concert
If this homecoming concert was a test run for a possible arena tour, Ballerini passed with flying colors.
Kelsea Ballerini; Photo by Catherine Powell
23 years ago, Kelsea Ballerini attended her first concert at Knoxville, Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena, and on Thursday evening (Nov. 2), she returned to that same arena for her first-ever headlining arena concert. The sold-out show was a testament to her star power, natural-born ability to entertain, and the unwavering connection she shares with her fans.
With her hometown crowd cheering her on, the songstress took the stage at approximately 8:40 pm, treating her fans to an enchanting two-hour musical experience that spanned her nearly 10-year career.
An Epic Homecoming
Opening the show with the powerful “Mountain With A View,” Ballerini set the stage for what was to come as she arose from under a platform and was met with a chorus of applause. Instantly captivating the audience, the two-time GRAMMY nominee confidently paraded around the stage performing hit after hit for a sea of adoring fans.
“I’ve gotten to play a lot of shows in the last decade, in a lot of places that I love. But if there is one show that I’m glad you came to, it’s this one,” she said, beaming. “This is my first big girl show.”
As the audience went wild for the superstar, she added, “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 I’ll never be able to say thank you enough for.”
A hometown arena concert was a bucket list moment for the 30-year-old singer/songwriter so she pulled out all the stops in honor of the occasion. Taking her production to new heights for the special, one-night-only show, her road crew increased from 33 to 79 and from three buses to eight. With all hands on deck, the show featured next-level visuals, including pyrotechnics, lasers, confetti, and more as well as several outfit changes.
Without missing a beat, Ballerini flawlessly transitioned from hit to hit allowing each song to have its own moment in the show. She reflected on the start of her career with “Love Me Like You Mean It,” gave a nod to her fans with “Legends,” and brought the honky tonk party with performances of “If You Go Down (I’m Goin’ Down Too) and “Hole In The Bottle.”
Surprise Guest Kenny Chesney
A particularly special moment came during Ballerini’s performance of “half of my hometown.” Halfway through the first verse and chorus, she paused and said, “Can we stop? I can’t be in Knoxville and sing this song without Kenny Chesney!”
A roar of applause filled the arena as Chesney joined Ballerini on stage. “Before we sing this song, Kelsea told me backstage she goes, ‘Don’t make me cry up here.’ I’m not gonna make her cry, but I do wanna say just how proud I am of Kelsea and her band,” he shared from the stage. “Tonight is very special and I’m thrilled to be back in East Tennessee to celebrate Kelsea Ballerini.”
Those who were in attendance to witness this heartwarming moment between the pair of East Tennessee natives should consider themselves quite lucky. Re-live the moment HERE.
After Chesney exited the stage, Ballerini gave fans in the back of the area a front-row seat with a quick set from the b-stage, which included a “girl squad” performance of “Homecoming Queen” with opening acts Georgia Webster and Ingrid Andress.
Shaking hands and hugging necks along the way, she made her way back to the main stage for a quick costume change. Following an energetic performance of “Weather,” Ballerini surprised the crowd by flying above the stage on a giant illuminated star adorned with sparkers while singing “Peter Pan.” When her feet were planted safely back on stage, she said, “Guys, did that look cool? ‘Cause it was scary as s**t!”
One of Rolling Up The Welcome Mat’s most buzzed-about tracks, “Blindsided,” was a crowd favorite (fans shouted “yeah, sure, okay” at a high volume), and her fiery rendition of “Miss Me More” once again proved her was born to entertain.
It was clear that fans were anxiously awaiting Ballerini’s performance of “Penthouse” and she didn’t let them down. Recreating her viral MTV VMA performance, Ballerini did a quick change mid-song to reveal a black mini dress under a long white silk gown. With the audience clinging to every word, she went on to sing “How Do I Do This,” offering fans a glimpse into the beginnings of her budding romance with Outer Banks star, Chase Stokes, who was sweetly cheering her on from the soundboard all night.
An Emotional Ending To A Remarkable Evening
In a vulnerable moment, Ballerini closed the show the same way she began her career: just her and her guitar. Making her way to the end of the catwalk, she acknowledged her mom, dad, her high school chorus teacher, and her boyfriend, who were all in attendance for the special night. She then expressed immense gratitude to her fans.
“If there’s one thing you hear from me tonight, it’s ‘thank you,’” Ballerini, visibly filled with emotions, shared. “I’ve never, ever truly, in my life – in my life – been more grateful for what I have.”
Following a tear-filled acoustic performance of “What I Have,” Kelsea Ballerini bid farewell to fans, closing the curtain on what was, without a doubt, the best show of her career thus far.
Kelsea Ballerini – The Homecoming Show Set List
Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
Mountain With A View
Love Me Like You Mean It
If You Go Down (I’m Goin’ Down Too)
Love is a Cowboy
Cowboy Take Me Away (The Chicks cover)
Hole In The Bottle
Half Of My Hometown (with Kenny Chesney)
You’re Drunk, Go Home
Leave Me Again
I Hate Love Songs
The Way I Used To
Homecoming Queen (w/ Ingrid Andress and Georgia Webster)
Interlude (Full Length)
I Quit Drinking
Miss Me More
How I Do This
Doin’ My Best
What I Have
Lauren Jo Black
Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for Answers.com and her work being featured on Forbes.com. She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.