It's easy to like Tim McGraw. Not for his music necessarily. But he seems like a big-hearted fellow -- a handsome superstar who doesn't put on airs and seems genuinely grateful for the chance to perform in front of adoring fans.
Thousands were on hand at a sold-out Nissan Pavilion on Sunday night to shriek and scream and whoop and whistle through his two-hour hit-filled performance. That he squeezed his buff body into shrink-wrapped bluejeans and an impossibly tight black tank top was like dangling a pork chop in front of a lion for this predominantly female crowd. Every time the giant video screens showed lengthy close-ups of McGraw's denimed rear end -- and this happened more often than Dan Snyder fires Redskins coaches -- the screams reached a Beatle-esque pitch.
There were just as many sweet and thoughtful moments as sexy ones. Pulling adorable little girls onstage to dance with him, saluting the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, singing about God and making self-deprecating jokes reinforced the notion that the hunky Mr. Faith Hill is a moral and decent, aw-shucks regular guy.
But let's get back to the music, shall we? Ugh, we shall. Unfortunately, there's much less to like about McGraw the singer than McGraw the entertainer. It's true that he has sold millions and millions of CDs, and although it's hard to argue with success, his is particularly baffling. Not because he is awful or off-putting or egregiously annoying. But when it comes to singing, McGraw has perhaps the single most uninteresting voice in country music. And it is reaching, by the way, even to call his bland brand of music country. Twangless, fangless processed pop is much closer to the truth. After a while, its careful inoffensiveness can really start to offend.
Backed by his super-slick eight-piece band, the Dancehall Doctors, McGraw's spree of innocuousness included "Where the Green Grass Grows," "Just to See You Smile," "Don't Take the Girl" and the deadly-dull ballad, "She's My Kind of Rain." Much better was the jubilant party hit "I Like It, I Love It" and "Red Ragtop," a pained look back at a young couple's decision to have an abortion.
The band also dropped in a couple of cell-phone favorites. These are the ones that prompt fans to hit speed dial and scream into their phones: HEY! I'M AT TIM MCGRAW. LISTEN, HE'S PLAYING "INDIAN OUTLAW"! WHOOO! Even if you love Tim McGraw, do you really want to be on the other end of that phone call?
One of the oddest moments of the show occurred midway through a song when the 37-year-old singer picked up a Bud Light bottle and clinked a toast with a band mate while an ad for the beer company flashed on the screens behind him. Seriously, Tim, are you really not making enough money that you have to resort to that?
But for all his demerits as a singer and shill, McGraw the entertainer didn't disappoint. His fans would leave with plenty of memorable moments to discuss for the two hours they would spend exiting the little corner of hell known as the Nissan Pavilion parking lot.