Toby Keith on That 13-Year Concert Break

The last time Toby Keith came through Chicago, we talked about the kinds of beer joints he played on the Texas-Oklahoma-Colorado circuit before he got his record deal and about what his tour might be like next February, when he’ll celebrate the 25th anniversary of his debut hit “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” He said he might even name his 2018 roadwork the Should’ve Been a Cowboy Tour.

Then I asked him why he was finally returning to Nashville for a tour stop after 13 years.

“I’d love to give you a big fancy answer, but it’s just another day on the map,” Keith said of his July 20 show at the Ascend Amphitheater in downtown Nashville.

And even though his fans are making a big deal about his return, it’s not like Keith and Nashville don’t have history together. He gave me a list of what he has always done there: tribute shows, awards shows, benefit concerts. Plus, there have been all the other places he’s played in his long career as a country singer-songwriter.

“I’ve played the Opry. I’ve played at events in the Bridgestone Arena. I used to play out at that old Starwood Amphitheater,” he said of the Antioch venue that closed after its 2006 season. “And when I was just starting out, I would even play out at the Opryland’s theme park in the early ’90s.”

After the Ascend Amphitheater opened a couple of years ago, when Eric Church played two grand-opening nights in July 2015, someone on Keith’s team suggested it.

“They said, ‘There’s a cool little venue that everyone’s playing,’ and I was like, ‘Sure,’” he said. “It just fit in with what we were doing.”

Alison makes her living loving country music. She’s based in Chicago, but she’s always leaving her heart in Nashville.

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