Tim McGraw concert gets back to basics

by Alison Bonaguro
Special to the Tribune

Published May 26, 2008


When Tim McGraw embarked on tour this year, tourmate and spouse Faith Hill chose to stay home with the kids. But he didn't stop there in stripping down his act.

Gone are the glass stage, the catwalks, the disco balls.

And in their place?

The good ol' McGraw swagger. After a couple showy years of touring arenas with his wife, McGraw is back on the road with just a 10-man band and a busload of testosterone.

The capacity crowd Saturday night at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre witnessed McGraw at his sparest, with a bare-bones stage and a 20-song set list he barreled through with his Dancehall Doctors behind him. The band leaned heavily on percussion, with guitars coming in a close second.

Sporting a sculpted goatee and black cowboy hat, McGraw interacted more with the band than the fans, but he seems to have made peace with who he is as a performer. He is a singer—nothing more, nothing less. And three seconds into his hit "Unbroken," the crowd became singers, too. And familiarity inspired cacophony each time a hit rolled out. New, unreleased tunes threw a speed bump into the show's momentum—but by the first notes of the next hit, unknown songs were forgotten and the fans returned to autopilot for "Where the Green Grass Grows," "Kristofferson" and "Cowboy in Me."

While he closed the show with an extended cover of David Allan Coe's "The Ride," the most moving part of the encore saw McGraw take the stage with songwriting buddies Brett and Brad Warren to sing "If You're Reading This," the gut-wrenching tale of a soldier's letter arriving back home when he does not.


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