When you find out Tim McGraw is coming to a city near you, you go. Period. End of story. That has been my personal mentality since 1996 when Faith Hill opened for Tim and their relationship was a fan girl’s dream come true. Nineteen years later, the mentality remains intact, as Tim is still one of the most engaging and magnetic performers in the business.
Last night, Tim brought his talents and fellow stars Chase Bryant and Billy Currington home to Nashville, Tennessee, where the three were expected to blow the roof off Bridgestone Arena. Expectations were met and exceeded as the crowd was more than ready for Tim to emerge upon the dimming of the house lights and the production that began on stage.
Unfortunately, our team missed Chase Bryant’s performance, as we attended a pre-show event to celebrate Tim’s Number 1 hit song “Shotgun Rider,” see a presentation to the songwriters, and watch a two-song private performance by the man with thirty-six chart-topping tracks under his belt.
When we did make our way to our seats, Billy Currington had already claimed the stage as his own, indicating that this hit-maker is primed and prepared to be a headliner in his own right sooner than later. With an impressive catalog of songs that contains hit after hit, Billy proved that he must be doing something right, as the Nashville crowd was most certainly at his mercy.
Encouraging crowd participation and getting the party started with one of the strongest opening sets to which I have ever been a witness, Billy performed fan favorites like “People Are Crazy,” “We Are Tonight,” “Good Direction,” and the song that is being covered across all genres, “Uptown Funk.” Undoubtedly, Billy set the tone for the entire night, raising the bar so high that Tim McGraw would have to bring his “A” game to be a true standout. Lucky for Tim, he knows no other game.
As fans can always expect from a Tim McGraw show, the artist who has rightfully garnered the respect of the entire industry for twenty-five years prepared a collection of hits, ranging from his second album’s “Down on the Farm” to his current single “Top of the World.” Bookending the setlist with his classics, Tim inserted his newer and/or lesser known pieces of work in the middle of his set, ensuring that longtime fans never lost interest and newer fans had a patch of tracks they recognized.
Highlights of Tim’s show that were unique to this tour stop were the inclusion of many guests on stage. Paying homage to the people who have helped Tim become one of the most decorated singers of all time, the real good man invited radio executives to watch the show standing on the stage. Tim also covered one of his favorite songs on today’s radio, Chris Janson’s “Buy Me a Boat,” during which Chris made a cameo. Following the performance, Tim introduced the United States veteran recipient of a new home (through his HomeFront program), as well as a family to whom he gifted a boat and truck, due to inspiration from Chris’s rising hit.
The show then became a family affair, as Tim introduced his cousin, Catherine Dunn, whose stunning vocals can be heard on “Diamond Rings and Old Bar Stools,” followed closely by his daughter Gracie McGraw, who performed “Here Tonight” with her dad for the first time on stage. Since this was Gracie’s first time singing before a jam-packed arena, one could likely expect that her mother would be in the wings, watching her little girl fly away. Those who had those expectations were not disappointed, as the opening notes of “It’s Your Love” began, a song Tim has not regularly performed on his tours sans Faith, and his wife emerged from stage right to assist on harmonies. The crowd erupted, tears were shed, and dreams became realities, all at the hands of Mr. and Mrs. McGraw.
The cameos did not end there, as Tim welcomed back opening acts Chase Bryant and Billy Currington for assistance on “Felt Good on My Lips” (Chase) and “I Like It, I Love It” (Billy). Following a serene performance of the breathtaking “Cowboy In Me,” Tim performed a four-song encore, including Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” “Mexicoma,” “Indian Outlaw,” and the track that is at the top of my personal “favorite live songs” list, “Live Like You Were Dying.”
As a whole, the Shotgun Rider Tour is every bit as perfect as every tour Tim McGraw has ever headlined, and the male artist who once took home the coveted Entertainer of the Year award proved he is still a viable commodity in the country music genre and should remain a contender for the honor in the present and future. As a fan who has never faltered and has been a part of Tim’s ride since the early nineties, it took my breath away to see an artist I cite as one who made me love country music still performing at the caliber he did that first time in 1996 when I sat in an amphitheater and felt my life change.
The Shotgun Rider Tour will continue into October 2015, and information regarding dates and tickets can be found on Tim’s official website.
Click here to watch the full performance of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s “It’s Your Love” from Nashville, Tennessee.