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Concert Reviews:
Tim McGraw Flexes Big Star Muscles At The Palace

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2010

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AUBURN HILLS -- Tim McGraw put it succinctly on Saturday night (April 24) when he, unnecessarily, introduced himself and his Dancehall Doctors band to the crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills: "We don't bull... We just play music."

And that's just what the country superstar did over the course of an hour of 50 minutes, reminding his fans that 22 years of hitmaking equals, if not trumps, the upstart momentum of opening act Lady Antebellum.

That trio, of course, has the country world's favor at the moment, with a chart-topping sophomore album ("Need You Now") and three trophies at the previous week's Academy of Country Music awards. The group only bolstered its rep on Saturday, too, with a polished, energetic and smoothly choreographed 50-minute set that hit all the key moments from its two platinum and decidedly pop-flavored albums -- "Love Don't Live Here," "Lookin' For a Good Time," "I Run to You," "Need You Now" and "American Honey" -- as well as a cover medley of John Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." and the Romantics' "What I LIke About You."

The group didn't even need Dave Haywood to introduce Hillary Scott as "one of the biggest Red Wings fans there is" to win over the crowd. And when Scott promised that "we can't wait to come back," it was clear the feeling in the arena was mutual.

But that hardly sucked all the love out of the room for McGraw, who -- after a somewhat labored opening that included a playing of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" in its entirety over the P.A. -- got things of to a rocking start with an opening salvo of "Real Good Man," "Last Dollar (Fly Away)," "Where the Green Grass Grows" and "Let It Go" as he worked his way around a long ramp that extended onto the Palace floor, with wings that brought him closer to the side seats as well. The addition of the two Warren Brothers only made his now 10-member Dancehall Doctors stronger than ever, bolstering song arrangements with textures from a whopping six guitars at times.

Though the tour is ostensibly promoting McGraw's latest album, 2009's "Southern Voice," he only plucked a couple of its songs, "Still" and the title track, for Saturday's 24-song set in favor of a career-spanning compendium that included favorites such as "Down on the Farm," "I Like It, I Love It," "Sing Me Home," his cover of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and "Live Like You Were Dying." After explaining that he learned to play guitar in order to meet girls, McGraw, sporting jeans as tight as the Pistons' old Bad Boy defense, played two songs solo -- "Let Me Love You" and "Everywhere" -- then was joined by the Warrens for "Blank Sheet of Paper" and "If You're Reading This," as well as a snippet of Taylor Swift's "Tim McGraw."

It was all loose and friendly, in other words. Lady Antebellum -- as well as Love & Theft, which opened the night with a 20-minute set -- has something to prove, and did so. McGraw, meanwhile, just celebrated a long and successful career that shows no signs of fading in the face of fresh and formidable competition.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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