Tim McGraw Reliant Stadium March 9, 2013
Here's the thing. I like Tim McGraw and his music, even if he's been mired in schmaltz for the past decade, only sporadically making a song that sticks to my ribs. He seems sincere, even if his material isn't always a great fit.
I even like dumb-fun singles like the recent "Truck Yeah" that make me snicker more than holler and cheer since I don't own a truck, but I enjoy the audacity. This is also why I celebrate Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" without shame.
McGraw packed Reliant Stadium ably on Friday night, but if you were waiting on his early-'90s singles, you would have been out of luck. Friday night was devoted to this past month's Two Lanes of Freedom, an album he's extremely proud of.
And to tell you the truth, Freedom seems to be the closest thing to the true McGraw in 2013. Songs like "Mexicoma" and "Nashville Without You" worked well in the rodeo setting, but you could tell the crowds were more enamored by McGraw taking a lap around the perimeter of the stadium than the songs.
The situation sounds to me like McGraw is a rocker at heart, and at this point could easily ditch the country overtones for a traditional rock record. After all, most contemporary country in '13 is just pop-rock with a fiddle. Lord knows he's got a young, energetic band behind him right now; the twin guitars up front kept things interesting.
But like I said, I liked hearing "Truck Yeah" live finally. So don't listen to me, Mr. McGraw.
Personal Bias: I came hoping for "I Like It, I Love It" and "Angry All the Time," but no dice. I've moved beyond "Indian Outlaw." Just give it to me Strait, but thank you for "Down on the Farm." I need that on vinyl now.
The Crowd: Your typical copyrighted "Friday Night Rodeo Date Night," peppered with those silly giant stuffed rasta-banana plush dolls that someone won against his or her better judgement.
Overheard in the Crowd: McGraw's general rugged hunkiness seems to appeal to both sexes. And yes, General Rugged Hunkiness would be a rad G.I. Joe character.
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Random Notebook Dump: Fair enough, Mr. McGraw. Playing a lot of new stuff and not sticking to a hits set is ballsy at RodeoHouston, but the new stuff is a long ways off from your "Don't Take the Girl"-like heights.