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Concert Reviews:
Tim McGraw opens DTE season on a winning note

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Monday, May 20, 2013

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- All the ingredients for a big night at the DTE Energy Music Theatre -- good weather, a spirited and sold-out crowd, plenty of hits from the stage -- were present and accounted for as the DTE Energy Music Theatre opened its 2013 season on Sunday night, May 19.

The hits, of course, came courtesy of Tim McGraw, usurping Eddie Money's usual venue-opening role with two hours of typically high-energy country and rock, celebrating his latest release, "Two Lanes of Freedom," but hardly at the expense of the rest of his multi-platinum, 20-year catalog. Following spirited opening sets by Brantley Gilbert and Love & Theft, McGraw -- squeezed into extremely tight blue jeans and black mesh T-shirt -- opened Sunday's show by walking through the DTE concourse and down a pavilion aisle, high-fiving fans in the seats and in the general admission pit in front of the stage before opening with a barrage of hits that included "When the Green Grass Grows," "All I Want is a Life," "Down on the Farm," a muscular "How Bad Do You Want It" and the gentler "Everywhere."

It wasn't until the sixth song -- "Southern Girl" -- that McGraw tapped into the new material, though he also visited the album with a five-song mid-show blast that mixed rowdy tracks ("Mexicoma," McGraw's lift of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta," and the title track) with moodier, melodic fare such as "Nashville Without You," "Friend of a Friend" and "Highway Don't Care." Meanwhile, McGraw and his latest band, dubbed Uncle Dick's Horse, added new, industrial and electronic-flavored introductions to old favorites such as "The Cowboy in Me," "Feels Good on My Lips" and "I Like It, I Love It" -- a nice, if superfluous bit of synthesis that showed he's at least paying attention to contemporary trends.

But none of that was better than the actual playing, which reached its zenith during the long, guitar-heavy jam that finished off "Angel Boy" and a noisy nadir on metallic encore renders of "Indian Outlaw" and "Truck Yeah."

While his taped image appeared on TV with his CBS special "Tim McGraw's Superstar Summer Night," the singer also upped the eye-candy ante in the flesh, using an array of video screens to create massive, stage-enveloping 3D visuals to accent the performance. It also allowed him to virtually recreate guest appearances by Taylor Swift and Keith Urban on "Highway Don't Care" and by Pitbull on "Feels Good on My Lips," showing big stars really do have the clout to be in two places at once.

It was indeed a big night all the way around, for McGraw and for DTE, which unveiled its new public bar, The Arbor, as well as other changes, including some new rest rooms, on its opening night. It may have been mid-May, but on this particular night it felt like the heart of the summer at the area's biggest amphitheater.

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