Tim McGraw brings star power to Mansfield

A review of Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan at the Comcast Center on July 24, 2011

, Contributing Writer

Veteran country superstar Tim McGraw brought his “Emotional Traffic” tour to the Comcast Center in Mansfield on Sunday night. With just enough star power, McGraw overcame a lackluster setlist to make it an entertaining night for the near-capacity crowd.

McGraw started the show with “Something Like That” from a B-stage near the soundboard. He stayed there for another old favorite in “Where the Green Grass Grows” before making his way to the main stage to join his eight-piece Dancehall Doctors band during “Down on the Farm”. Understandably, McGraw was unable to move around much with a broken foot but his vocals still came across as smooth and polished. Notably, he shined during classics “Fly Away (Last Dollar)” and “Do You Want Fries With That”.

Though dubbed the “Emotional Traffic” tour, the album of the same name and followup to 2009’s Southern Voice has yet to be released and is currently in a legal dispute. McGraw did give fans a taste of the new material with current single “Felt Good on My Lips” to the delight of female fans, and “Right Back At Ya”, which showcased a more soulful, R&B side. For the most part, however, Sunday’s 90-minute show (which was broadcast live on Sirius XM Radio) featured a setlist heavy on older songs. This paved the way for crowd sing-alongs favorites like “Just to See You Smile”, “Cowboy in Me” and “Red Ragtop”.

Unfortunately, the middle of the show dragged at a few points and was in dire need of some more upbeat members. The succession of slower, older songs “Please Remember Me” and “For a Little While” followed by the debut of previously unknown “Right Back at Ya” made keeping the energy up a difficult task.

Over the years, McGraw has emerged as a mentor for younger country artists. This was exemplified as he played the older brother role after inviting opener Luke Bryan to duet on “Back When”, the show’s best number. For the most part, McGraw kept the show flowing. He limited the stage banter, though did tell a few stories including his appreciation for all the great artists he’s worked with over the years, including wife Faith Hill and even rapper Nelly before singing “Better Than I Used To Be”. “Unbroken”, while not his finest song, provided a chance for McGraw to hang with fans in the pit and allow his band to shine.

McGraw closed the main set with 2003’s “Real Good Man”, but quickly returned for a three-song encore. It began with “Live Like You Were Dying”, which sparked a vociferous sing-along. “Indian Outlaw” followed before “I Like It, I Love It” brought the show to a close.

Despite leaving out some standouts, most notably “If You’re Reading This”, McGraw’s massive catalogue made sure fans weren’t left completely disappointed.

Bryan catered to one specific fan group during his 55-minute set: the ladies. He took every opportunity to flirt with the “country girls” in the audience, dedicating his latest hit “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” to all the ladies who wanted to get frisky as he danced across the stage. While performances of songs like “Drinkin’ Beer and Wastin’ Bullets” and “We Rode in Trucks” prove he’s a charismatic country singer, Bryan clearly wants to be a rock star. He entered the stage with a mash-up of Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite”, Eminem’s “Not Afraid” and AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and closed out his set by interrupting “All My Friends Say” with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. At the end of the day, however, Bryan is just a farm boy who likes to show his muscles, play the drums and have fun with his fans, all of which were on display set highlight “Rain Is A Good Thing”.

The Band Perry, the Mississippi-based trio of siblings Kimberly, Neil, and Reid Perry, look straight out of the Disney channel but are made for CMT. Their engaging set started with the peppy song “Double Heart” and followed with the equally up-beat “Hip To My Heart”. After “Independence”,  a song that boasts the common country music theme of leaving a small town, the band lamented about the greatness of country music and radio. That led right into “If I Die Young”, the band’s recent pop crossover hit that got everyone singing along. Beginning with a snippet of Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie”, The Band Perry aptly rolled into a great rendition of “You Lie”. Their rousing, but disappointingly short, set closed with “Quittin You”, perfect for Kimberly’s enthusiastic stage persona.

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