Review: Minus pretense, Tim McGraw an evolving, revolving act
By Bill Oram
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jun 15 2013 10:24AM
If Tim McGraw ever needs a hip replacement, he’ll have the music to fall back on.
With substance vastly overpowering flash, the country legend was in top form Friday night at USANA Amphitheatre, unleashing a set of hits spanning 20 years. And while some of the loudest cheers of the night came when McGraw pulled off a brown leather jacket to reveal chiseled upper arms, and each time he sent his large gold belt buckle into orbit with smooth, metronomic gyrations, McGraw should be allowed those teasing indulgences. Beyond moves usually reserved for pole dancing workouts, it was two hours with few frills.
As country shows become pyrotechnics blowouts with a live soundtrack, McGraw has gone the other way. He had a band, a guitar (sometimes), a four-story video screen and whole lot of hits.
McGraw has been at this a long time. He turned 46 last month and he’s either learned that he doesn’t need to cover anything up - seriously, we’re moving on from his physique now - with distracting tricks or he quit giving a damn. With his voice just vulnerable enough on the high notes, and his smile with its familiar, right-of-center tilt McGraw was appropriately charming and flirtatious with an adoring audience.
McGraw played nearly every hit, opening with "Where the Green Grass Grows" and powering through "Down on the Farm," "How Bad Do You Want It?," and "Everywhere" before even daring to dip into his newest stuff, from "Two Lanes of Freedom," his 12th studio album released in February.
His No. 1-hit duet, "Highway Don’t Care," with Taylor Swift was awkward with McGraw singing live, and Swift only present through the magic of HD. She, of course, sounded better with studio rendering, but the power of the song, appropriately wistful and lovely, took care of any imperfections.
And while new songs such as "Mexicoma" - money lyric: "You pulled the plug on what I thought was love, but I got just enough juice to forget about you and squeeze this lime" - are far from McGraw’s top hits, alongside his classics, you’re willing to go along for the ride.
The best thing about McGraw, live or through speakers, is the sincerity of the product. He’s not jingoistic, he doesn’t overutilize beer, coonhounds and pickup trucks to pander to the country crowd - although "Truck Yeah" is so cheekily, obnoxiously, mainstream that it was tough not to sing along by the time McGraw sang the chorus for the final time, closing the set and ending the night.