Tim McGraw gives the people what they want

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      “My name is Tim,” the man on stage says with a wry smile. “But I’m better known as Faith’s husband.”

      Tim McGraw’s standing in the middle of Rogers Arena dressed in black slacks, a black (sheer, notably) collared button-up tee, and a black cowboy hat. It’s the Vancouver stop on his Standing Room Only Tour, and the 56-year-old is about to prove why he’s still such a country superstar. And, according to the friend I’ve brought with me, also a DILF.

      Kentucky-born Carly Pearce opens the show, charming the crowd with her raw enthusiasm for her work. “Are y’all ready for some country music tonight?” she bellows, clearly just so stoked to be here—and why wouldn’t she be? She has a (very catchy) song called “Country Music Made Me Do It”, and she means it. This is her lifeblood.

      Sara Harowitz.

      Pearce takes us through a robust setlist that includes “We Don’t Fight Anymore” (her duet with heavyweight Chris Stapleton), “Every Little Thing” (her first number-one single), “What He Didn’t Do” (a song that she wrote to help her through a divorce), and “Let’s Go to Vegas” (her cover of the retro Faith Hill song—because “I don’t know about you,” she says, “but I can’t think of Tim McGraw without thinking of Faith Hill”).

      McGraw himself seems intrinsically, cosmically linked to his country-singing wife. Her face appears on the stage’s giant screens multiple times throughout the show, demonstrating what seems to be a downright genuine obsession with her. And rightly so.

      If you want to see full-grown adults (who, um, aren’t Swifties) absolutely losing their shit, go to a Tim McGraw show. I don’t remember the last time I went to a stadium concert and saw people this jacked up—high-pitch screaming, endless hands reaching to touch his, people off-beat dancing and yell-singing along. It’s almost as fun to watch as McGraw himself.

      Sara Harowitz.

      Playing a mix of new (from his 16th studio album, Standing Room Only) and old favourites, McGraw knows what his fans want, and he is not shy about giving it to them. From a cover of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and his epic Nelly collab “Over and Over” to “Where The Green Grass Grows”, “Just to See You Smile”, and “Something Like That”, McGraw slinks and fist-pumps around the stage, commanding attention with nothing more than his mere presence.

      “What a zaddy!” my friend says at one point. She’s not wrong. Another friend saw McGraw perform at the Calgary Stampede a few years back, gushing about his stage presence—and the fact that he took off his shirt at the end. Sadly no muscles are on display this evening, though we do catch a glimpse of what appears to be an eight-pack when he untucks his shirt at the end of the encore.

      Speaking of that encore, it starts off a little odd with a series of clips from 1883: the Yellowstone offshoot that he stars in with Hill. I mean, this is a group of people who are already converted to the Church of McGraw—they don’t need 1883 advertised to them. I bet 99 per cent of them already watch it.

      When that’s over, McGraw comes back on stage to sing “The Cowboy in Me”, “Humble and Kind” (with an acoustic ending that has the attendees all belting the words in unison), and “Live Like You Were Dying”.

      Sara Harowitz.

      McGraw’s not the best vocalist to ever make it in country music, but he doesn’t need to be. He represents something much bigger: being genuine, loving your partner, saying thank you ma’am, embracing your sex appeal no matter your age, and making people feel good. He is simultaneously unattainable and relatable. A consummate professional—an officer and a gentleman. And, hell yeah, a cowboy.