Tim McGraw at The Woodlands, 8/9/2014
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Tim McGraw, Kip Moore, Cassadee Pope Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 9th, 2014
Tim McGraw has swag.
As well he should. He's got a great country voice, he's handsome, he's built like a MMA fighter, he's married to one of the other biggest names in country music and he has a staggering amount of hit songs.
He's also insanely, mind-blowingly popular. Most shows, no matter how popular the artist, you hit that stretch were the crowd simmers down while they wait for the hits to return. Not so with Mr. McGraw. Saturday night fans flocked to the Pavilion to sing their asses off, and did so to every single one of his hits.
The crowd was so loud that there were times when the mostly open-air pavilion sounded like a crowded club show, the screaming almost painfully loud to experience.
Yeah, he's earned the right to have some swag.
The final stop of the Sundown Heaven Town tour was a laid-back affair. That's not to say that McGraw phoned in his performance, just that things felt a little looser and lighter. He was a little more reckless going up and down the stairs onstage, a little more likely to let the crowd do the singing on the big hooks. It was a good look for a show big on the party atmosphere. There may be a near 20-year gap between "I Like It, I Love It" and "Truck Yeah," but the spirit is the same.
That's not to say that it was all balls out, drinks to the sky. McGraw, like any good country artist, has his softer and more serious moments. He gave what was an incredibly sincere and heartfelt introduction to his backing band. He spoke a bit about the armed services and giving away a home to a wounded warrior. He even did a solid, solo acoustic cover of "You Are So Beautiful."
The show was big on crowd interaction, and the man spent so much time bent over shaking hands and bumping fists that you're likely to get sympathy pains in your back watching him. It's cool though to see an artist so popular paying so much personal attention to his fans, even if it's just the small portion surrounding the stage.
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Highlight of the night? While his big, rowdy hits got the crowd moving, the show stopping moment was the unexpected cameo appearance from Faith Hill on "Meanwhile Back at Mama's." Those two are magic onstage together, in a way that seems much more natural than Beyoncé and Jay Z. An excellent bonus for the Pavilion crowd.
It's surprisingly that someone hasn't done a proper "Down on the Farm" bro-country remake. It just seems so obvious, especially once you hear it live. But when Tim McGraw sings it, or any of his party hits, they don't feel obnoxious the way that modern country does. It doesn't even feel obnoxious when he yells at something as ridiculous (but true) as "Thank God for Country Music! And BBQ! And Whataburger!"
Swag is often hard to define, but being able to yell something like that out and have people sincerely cheer?
Yeah, that's swag.
So, How Were the Openers? All glittery and grit-free, Cassadee Pope's songs come off better in person than they do on her debut album, which has that soulless sound that comes from overproduction. There's no way to avoid the unfortunate pun, so let's just get it out there: she does have The Voice, and it's mighty impressive live. It's cool that she's following her heart and doing the country thing (bonus: it probably pays better than the Warped Tour scene) but I do kinda miss Hey Monday.
Kip Moore has an interesting voice and mounds of charisma, but his songs are a touch underwhelming. "Beer Money" is pretty fun, but most of his songs have crap hooks, and that's a bummer. He's like the best version of your friend who has a bar band that you go to see and you're super-happy they have that one song you can mention when the show is over because otherwise things would be real awkward.
Personal Bias: A few weeks back I made the mistake of telling my roommate that I had never heard "Don't Take the Girl." For a moment it seemed like I might have to find a new place to live.
The Crowd: Pretty much what you'd expect for a Woodlands country music show, although a few girls were dressed like they were headed to Coachella.
Overheard In the Crowd: "She looks like something out of a Star Wars movie." I wish I knew who they were talking about so I had more context for that one.
Random Notebook Dump: Be careful who you ask to sit down because they're blocking your view. They may just end up being the sisters to the guy you paid money to see. You will be mortified when you discover this. The guy behind you taking notes on his cell phone will find it hilarious.
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