His name isn’t on the country music charts as often as it used to be, but Tim McGraw can still draw a large and zealous crowd.
Friday night, about 17,000 fans poured into Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in Bonner Springs to hear one of the most successful recording artists in country music over the past 25 years draw from a catalog that includes 10 No. 1 albums and more than two dozen No. 1 singles. He performed many of those during a set that sustained a high level of energy for more than 90 minutes, despite the stifling heat.
He opened with “Truck Yeah,” a pedestrian country-rock number that name checks Lil Wayne and the redneck/hillbilly lifestyle as it pays homage to every country boy’s favorite ride. He then jumped back to “Something Like That,” a boy-pursues-girl song from the late 1990s, then “Down on the Farm,” a track from his second album that is as bro-country as anything on the charts today.
McGraw gets by on his persona, charisma and looks as much as he does talent. His voice is steady and sturdy but not dynamic. He strapped on a guitar a few times but never really played it. And as with a lot of his contemporaries, his most popular songs were written by other people. He looks like a star, but he’s amiable and funny, and with ease he can charm a big crowd, especially the ladies young and older who let him know they admire his physique as much as they love his music.
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For his first Kansas City-area show in three years, McGraw was accompanied by a rock-steady eight-man band that applied plenty of country trimmings, including pedal steel, slide guitar, banjo and mandolin. His music mixes and crosses genres (country, rock, honky-tonk, pop), sometimes within a song, and his band executed it all seamlessly.
The set list featured tracks from his latest album, “Sundown Heaven Town,” including “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” a trenchant ballad with a classic-country vibe that was right in his vocal wheelhouse. He delivered plenty of his own classics, too, like “Where the Green Grass Grows,” “For a Little While,” “I Like It, I Love It” and “The Cowboy in Me.”
He closed with two of his biggest hits, “Indian Outlaw,” which the crowd treated as if it were a college fight song, then “Live Like You Were Dying,” a ballad inspired by the death of his father, Tug McGraw, a former major-league pitcher. That one aroused another loud singalong and provided a fitting end to a show from a guy who seems to have realized that longevity is to be appreciated and life is not to be taken for granted.
Truck Yeah; Something Like That; Down on the Farm; Southern Girl; Real Good Man; One of Those Nights; Just to See you Smile; Diamond Rings and Old Barstools; Let It Go; Last Dollar (Fly Away); Where the Green Grass Grows; Shotgun Rider; For a Little While; Unbroken; Felt Good on My Lips; I Like It, I Love It; The Cowboy in Me; Mexicoma; Indian Outlaw; Live Like You Were Dying.