updated 05/02/2008 AT 9:00 AM ET
•originally published 05/02/2008 AT 11:10 AM ET
Like any good cowboy, if you fall off the horse – or get your foot jammed between the stage and a hydraulic lift – you get right back on. That’s exactly what Kenny Chesney did when he resumed his “Poets & Pirates” tour Thursday night before a sold-out crowd at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center.
“I had eight shots in my foot [to deaden the pain] and I wasn’t sure how it was going to feel,” Chesney told PEOPLE exclusively after the concert. “I gotta tell you, once I hit that stage, it felt great.”
Five days before, Chesney, 40, injured his right foot, sustaining a hematoma and crushing his toes when the foot became wedged between a platform and the stage at the beginning of his concert in Columbia, S.C.
Luckily, no bones were broken, because his foot had been protected by a sturdy pair of his trademark cowboy boots, which had to be cut off at the end of the show.
“It happened so fast, I was pretty much in shock during the first two or three songs,” Chesney says. But he continued playing, even though it was obvious to concertgoers that he was in pain. “I didn’t know what was wrong. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know what it was.”
Chesney continues his 48-city tour with a show tonight. The three-time Entertainer of the Year winner will also perform at the May 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, where he is up for a record 11 awards. Though it will take several months for his foot to fully heal, he showed no signs of taking it easy Thursday night, jumping and stomping before the crowd.
“I feel bad that I didn’t get to give the people everything I intended to,” he says, “but I gave ‘em everything I had.”