Tim McGraw certainly knows how to put on a show.
The country music superstar brought the steady stage presence and easy confidence that come with more than 15 years of headlining performances and award-winning hits to Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Saturday night.
After minutes of musical buildup, with anticipation brewing and audience members craning their necks, he began the show on a raised platform in the middle of the audience with hits "Something Like That" and "Where the Green Grass Grows," making his way to the stage during "Down on the Farm."
McGraw has so many well-loved singles it's almost impossible to pick the highlights of his two-hour performance. His songs, for country fans, are as well-worn and comfortable as an old pair of jeans, from nostalgia-tinged "For a Little While" and "Red Rag Top" to ballads such as "Cowboy in Me" and "Please Remember Me." He played these and more during his 23-song set and included two songs from his forthcoming "Emotional Traffic" album, "Right Back Atcha" and the powerful "Better Than I Used to Be."
Through it all, the background transformed from flashy effects to vintage video clips and photographs, all suiting their corresponding songs and creating a unique and satisfying visual atmosphere. McGraw brought both his opening acts back onstage for duets, the Band Perry for heartbreaker "She Can't Really Be Gone" and Luke Bryan for "Back When," a lighthearted look at nostalgia that Bryan made even lighter with his take on the song, keeping McGraw laughing too hard to sing in some spots.
He ended the show in a three-song encore of some of his biggest hits. "Live Like You Were Dying," a song painfully overplayed on the radio when it debuted in 2004, gained new depth, and "I Like It, I Love It" and "Indian Outlaw" proved high-spirited finales to a satisfying show.
The two opening acts proved worthy of prepping the audience for such a prolific star.
The Band Perry's trio of sister Kimberly and brothers Reid and Neil emanated youthful enthusiasm for the duration of their short set. They cranked through six songs with excitement and energy, sampling bits from Rihanna and Tom Petty in "You Lie" and "Independence," respectively. However, they barely slowed down for the quiet sentiment of their hit "If I Die Young," which left the potential emotion of the song untapped.
They surrendered the stage to the good ol' country boy charm of Luke Bryan, who got things started with a dazzling lights sequence and a get-out-of-your-seat intro of AC/DC's "Back in Black," which segued into Bryan's "Country Man." After previewing "Drunk on You," a song off his "Tailgates and Tanlines" ("Two of my favorite things," Bryan confided to the audience) album due out in August, Bryan slowed things down with "We Rode in Trucks" and "Do I," proving that he can do soulful heartbreak just as well as honky-tonk partying.
Tim McGraw With Luke Bryan and the Band Perry.
Saturday evening in Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.