Tim McGraw, Big & Rich, The Warren Brothers

Tim McGraw's Saturday-night concert at Smirnoff Music Centre felt more like a circus act than a country show. Besides the midget in an orange furry hat, the 6-foot-5 black rapping cowboy and what appeared to be a country mosh pit forming down front, there was also "Big" Kenny Alphin of Big & Rich, the duo responsible for "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," dancing and encouraging the audience to "love everybody."

I wanted to make sense of McGraw's mass appeal, and I watched the crowd for clues, but when McGraw finally took the stage, I became only more mystified. When the audience saw the black cowboy hat, the black tank top and the admittedly nice-fitting jeans, they were mesmerized. (His bling-tastic belt buckle was captivating.) And when, during "Don't Take the Girl," McGraw brought a pregnant lady up onstage and rubbed her belly, I thought the woman behind me was going to faint. It was almost as if they didn't notice the sound problems that rendered much of the onstage banter inaudible and made McGraw's voice sound worthy of the next Chipmunks album. It was almost as if the music didn't matter. And maybe it didn't. McGraw trotted out the hits--and even wife Faith Hill for one song--and the crowd sang along to every word (screamed, actually). They gave him roses, they reached for his hand, and they tossed him their cowboy hats to sign. Maybe I still don't get it, but even through unfamiliar new songs, the oppressive July heat and what felt like six encores, these fans were dedicated till the end.

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Rhonda Reinhart