Tim McGraw review: superstar not resting on his laurels

Tim McGraw, Creative Commons

McGraw’s Molson Amphitheatre concert full of favourites but gave appreciative crowd new stuff too
SBy: Nick Krewen Music, Published on Fri Jul 26 2013

Tim McGraw
3 stars
July 25 at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre

It seems you can never have too many guitars at a Tim McGraw concert.

With an eight-piece band backing him up during a two-hour love-in with a full house at the Molson Amphitheatre on Thursday night, the average number of pickers onstage at any given time was five.
Three of them who were capable of providing solos to ramp up the wattage of older songs like “Let It Go” and newer ones like “Two Lanes of Freedom.”

Even the muscular son of baseball legend Tug McGraw, dressed simply in a black leather cowboy hat, sleeveless T-shirt, torn jeans and cowboy boots, occasionally chimed in on the instrument for a song or three, underscoring the notion of just how far the boundaries of country music are willing to be stretched these days.

The Louisiana-born country music superstar added a harder rock edge to his Nashville-generated fare, to the point where a double-necked guitar was pulled out for an extended take on Live Like You Were Dying’s “How Bad Do You Want It.” And McGraw threw in some pure pop confection with “Mexicoma” and had rapper Pitbull join him in a filmed segment to add his talents to “Felt Good on My Lips.”

There was a time not so long ago when it would have been verboten to bring hip-hop into the twang and, although he wasn’t the first to do it, McGraw has always been one of Music Row’s more progressive diplomats, searching out songs that have a deeper resonance with his audience than simply spending a night out with the boys, drinking beer and ogling women.

Although with songs like “Southern Girl” (dutifully reconfigured Thursday to include “Canadian Girl” and “Northern Girl” to the great delight of the female-dominant concertgoers), “Real Good Man” and “I Like It, I Love It,” McGraw and his thin tenor pull off the lighter fare, too.

But in generating more than 30 hits and a dozen studio albums that account for northwards of an estimated 40 million in record sales, McGraw has earned the right to simply rest on his laurels, churn out the hits and leave his audiences deliriously happy, something that lesser peers are all too happy to trot out once they reach similar pinnacles.

The multiple-Grammy winner seems more interested in testing his mettle on the crowd. Though the set was sprinkled with favourites — “Where the Green Grass Grows,” the lighthearted “Just to See You Smile” and the one that started the ball rolling, 1991’s “Indian Outlaw,” reserved for the encore — more often than not, McGraw’s repertoire focused on the new, offering eight songs from his latest album, Two Lanes of Freedom.

Not all of it worked: the new song “Nashville Without You” is a bit of a navel-gazing dud that only speaks to people who know the city, but it was forgotten when both Taylor Swift and Keith Urban appeared on the video screen to help the singer perform his recent hit “Highway Don’t Care.”

Overall, the onlookers, up on their feet from moment one, were receptive to it all, singing and dancing the night away as a relaxed and poised McGraw gave them a performance free of artifice.

By the time the show had built to the crescendo of “Live Like You Were Dying,” the crowd’s rapturous applause had spoken.

To paraphrase a McGraw hit: they liked it, they loved it and they wanted more of it.


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