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Tim McGraw’s Charlotte show is a crowd-pleaser

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/22/12/49/22vst.Em.138.jpeg|185
    Frederick Breedon IV - Getty Images for the Country Mus
    NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 16: Tim McGraw performs during Keith Urban's Fourth annual We're All For The Hall benefit concert at Bridgestone Arena on April 16, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon IV/Getty Images for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/22/12/49/m7qYX.Em.138.jpeg|363
    Al Powers - Al Powers/Invision/AP
    FILE - This April 7, 2013 file photo shows singer Tim McGraw at the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Curb Records has sued Tim McGraw and Big Machine Records in federal court, alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract. (Photo by Al Powers/Invision/AP, file)

The song would end, the lights would go black and a single spotlight would appear. Beneath it, silhouetted, stood Tim McGraw. He’d begin his next song, and eventually the rest of the stage would illuminate: a two-level set, a sprawling all-boy band, a dizzying assortment of flashing screens and spinning lights.

But for that moment, between each song, it was just Tim.

The 47-year-old country music icon never let the spotlight focus on him for too long during Saturday night’s show at PNC Music Pavilion.

He’d step to the side and let a band member take center stage – the pianist or guitarist or accordion player. He’d run off into some new section of the audience, touching as many waving hands as he could, where the cameras couldn’t follow him. He’d flex the bicep tattooed with his wife’s name and remind everyone that, as Faith Hill’s husband, he’s only one half of country music’s power couple.

Or, more often, he’d simply point to the crowd, trying to say in one way or another that tonight was really all about them.

With two decades of top hits under his (very intricately buckled) belt, McGraw clearly knew his way around the stage – and through the crowd, between the aisles and into the hearts of every woman there, of every age, who shouted her love for him with each breath.

He’d repeatedly remind the excitable Charlotte audience just how many times he’d done this already. “Anybody ever seen us live before?” he’d ask, or “Oh, let’s see if you remember this one,” as the first notes of 1997’s “Where the Green Grass Grows” began to play.

And the fans – thousands of them singing together, sweating together on this humid summer night – rose to the challenge, clapping to the beat. They remembered.

Throughout his 26-song, 2.5-hour-long set, McGraw gave whatever he could to the audience, tossing a guitar pick into it at the end of the song, or pointing a microphone at it during the chorus of hits like “Back When” and finale “Live Like You Were Dying.”

At one point, after a sappy rendition of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful,” sung for his three daughters, he even handed off a guitar to a kid in the audience named Connor. “Hi Connor,” the bizarrely fit, impressively tanned McGraw said upon introduction. “I’m Tim.”

Tim and his flashy theatrics and showy solos and high-energy leaps and jaunts across the stage; Tim, the veteran performer in his fitted jeans and black cowboy hat; Tim, who seems to never age. His fans raised their beers, waved their arms and focused only on what they had really come to see: just Tim.

Cassella: 704-358-5384; Twitter: @mmcassella
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