Emotions Win Out Over Explosions With Tim McGraw at RodeoHouston

Tim McGraw knows how to weave s song tale.
Tim McGraw knows how to weave s song tale.
PHOT by David "Odiwams" Wright

Tim McGraw
NRG Stadium
March 7, 2K19

Perhaps my most heretical belief as a music writer is that authenticity is overrated. Blame it on the fact that I'm the son of a Springsteen die-hard who fell in love hard with prog rock, but give me a singer who'll sing me a good fiction with a straight face over whomever the new realness is and I'll be much happier 9 times out of 10. This is all to say that there were times during Thursday night's set at RodeoHouston that Tim McGraw was my platonic ideal of a country singer.

One thing lacking in a lot of modern country is believability. Sure, Luke Bryan might own a farm, but you mean to tell me a dude with that nice a voice is hunting and fishing on the regular? Even if he is, he just sounds too clean to be that guy. But Tim McGraw? He's got just enough grit in those vocal cords to be the believable down on his luck dude, or the small town family man who doesn't care what you think of him, or the bad boy who is a real good man. Whatever the role, he sounds like he's straight out of that world.

Except, at times, for his big party numbers. “Truck Yeah” is still a bit too meathead, and his heart never seems to be into “I Like It, I Love It.” No, McGraw isn't one of those singers with the booming voice that RodeoHouston seems to be built for. His demeanor is more understated, yet no less engaging. He's just the type of guy that celebrates an unreleased ballad going over well with the crowd with the type of arm punching celebration dance usually reserved for touchdown celebrations.

A song like “Humble and Kind” would be so awful sung by almost any other country singer; with its so-sweet-it'll-give-you-a-cavity message, most would lean too far into the song, making it sound like a bad parity. But McGraw gives it just the right amount of heft to make it's very on the nose message seem like something worth considering, even if the song is pretty much just The Golden Rule at half speed.

That kind of emotion – real or not – might not make you stomp your feet or pump your fist, but it's good for the soul from time to time. Whether McGraw's melodies move you to tears or just give you something nice to listen to on a weekday night, the man knows who to weave a tale and a spell that still stuns so many years later.

Personal Bias: I thought “Break First” was one of the more underappreciated songs of the last year and hearing it live was one of my top 10 concert moments of 2018.

The Crowd: 66,491, the lowest second Thursday in a few years. There's a lot to unpack with the attendance numbers this year, y'all.

Mutton Bustin' Report, Night 11: Maybe I just don't have my finger on the pulse of the kids these days, but I'm surprised more of these kids aren't doing the floss after their rides. My favorite kid tonight wanted to be a butterfly catcher when she grows up; I'm jealous of her optimism.

Random Notebook Dump: What do you think is the best song that a famous person dislikes singing the most? “Pokerface” is the first thing that comes to mind, but I feel like I'm missing something more obvious.

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