Salt River Fields
August 10, 2013 Tim McGraw delivered a concert nothing short of excellent Saturday night, when he brought his highly anticipated and publicized Two Lanes of Freedom Tour to Salt River Fields. The country veteran proved he still has what it takes to excite fans with a live performance that propelled him enthusiastically from one side of the stage to the other while firing off a greatest hits montage spanning his 20-year musical career.
By 6 o'clock the baseball field was noticeably crowded, but by 8 there wasn't any room left to move. The attendance was higher than I had ever seen at the field. Fans stood in lines for vendors and sat on blankets in the grass while cooling themselves and each other with cardboard fans from the KNIX 102.5 and KMLE 107.9 booths.
The crowd had all the necessary attributes of a country concert: The beer flowed freely; bikini tops, cowboy boots and hats were spread as far as the eye could see; women competed to see whose cut-off shorts could be the shortest. I stepped in wads of chewing tobacco on multiple occasions.
Accompanying McGraw on the bill were country newcomers Chelsea Bain, who kicked off the evening, and Dakota Bradley. Both acts fit into the evening smoothly and delivered solid performances to round out the show.
Bradley explained during the performance that it was his 20th birthday, and when the massive audience wished him a happy birthday while he walked the stage, guitar slung at his side, it was obvious he was smiling uncontrollably. For good reason: opening for Tim McGraw is a hell of a birthday present for anybody. He then dove into a mature and introspective original song about never wanting to grow up.
A few minutes before nine the lights went down on stage. A wave of cheers swept across the field as fans rose to their feet and stood on their chairs in anticipation for Tim McGraw.
McGraw charged out of the darkness to the front of the stage, clapping his hands and tore into the opening verse of "Where the Green Grass Grows". By the third song he'd climbed off of the stage and was shaking hands and giving high fives to his fans standing in the first few rows.
Between songs, McGraw drank a seemingly endless supply of Red Bull and joked with the crowd by telling them the louder they were, the longer he'd play. Toward the beginning of his set he introduced the eight other members of his band who were on stage with him to piece all the music together.
McGraw still knows how to play to an audience and have a good time on stage. At 46 years old, with countless performances under his belt, he still seemed fresh and energetic. Women in the crowd shouted his name whenever he walked along the stage their way, thrusting his hips and flexing his muscles. (The biggest response from the ladies came after he changed the lyrics of his new single, "Southern Girl," to "Arizona Girl." He left the stage several times, climbing on the railings and the platforms to peer out over the crowd or get down in the audience.
He thanked all of his fans for years of support as well as the KNIX radio station and KMLE station for bringing his music to all the fans. "And they played the shit out of this next song," McGraw said, laughing, swinging his feet off the edge of the stage while singing "Just to See You Smile".
Fans seemed pleased with McGraw's balance of songs from his new album with his backlog of sing along hits during the 90 minute performance. He closed the night with a four-song encore that included two new songs, "One of Those Nights" and "Truck Yeah," along with two of his oldest songs, "Indian Outlaw" and "I Like It, I Love It."
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CRITICS NOTEBOOK: Last Night: Tim McGraw at Salt River Fields The Crowd: Looked like a combination of a beach party and a country party. More girls than guys, with the girls showing lots of skin and a lot of cowboy hats. Overheard in the Crowd: As I was standing in line at the beer vendor a drunken guy next to me got a phone call. "Hello," he says. After a short pause he belligerently shouts into the phone, "I'm fuckin' drunk at Tim McGraw!"
Another short pause and he looks at his buddy next to him and asks, "Do you remember why I called my mom earlier?" Before his friend can answer he says back into the phone, "Oh yeah, do you like Fireball whiskey?" He then ends the call with, "Okay I thought so, bye Momma, I love you. Tim McGraw! Fuck yeah!" Personal Bias: I was holding out for Tim McGraw to play "Don't Take the Girl"
Setlist: Where the Green Grass Grows All I Want Is a Life Down on the Farm How Bad Do You Want It Everywhere Southern Girl Just to See You Smile Mexicoma Friend of a Friend Highway Don't Care Two Lanes of Freedom Real Good Man The Cowboy in Me Something Like That Felt Good On My Lips Live Like You Were Dying One of Those Nights Indian Outlaw I Like It, I Love It Truck Yeah