Tim McGraw Sets Circus Down in Music City

Free Show on Day of Release Draws Thousands

Nashville’s skyline was brightened Tuesday evening (April 24) by the addition of a bright green circus tent, adorned with yellow stars, pitched on a grassy field next to the downtown railroad

Acoustic music rolling out of that tent competed with the rumble of freight trains rattling through the yards, and children skipped and ran through the grass as Tim McGraw ’s circus had come to town.

To drum up excitement for his new album Set This Circus Down, released Tuesday, and for his upcoming summer tour of the same name, McGraw performed free preview concerts on Tuesday, the first to a spirited crowd at New York City’s South Street Seaport at lunchtime. The singer then boarded a chartered jet to make it to Nashville for his twilight concert by the railroad yards.

McGraw and his band, the Dancehall Doctors, strolled out onto a low, red-and-white-striped stage adorned with a makeup table and lighted mirror, dolls’ faces and masks, and a tattered red sofa, with circus posters hanging overhead. To earsplitting cheers from the 3,000 or so fans pressed into the tent, they launched into a 30-minute acoustic set, highlighted by songs from the new album. McGraw, in jeans and jean jacket and a battered straw cowboy hat “I stole backstage from Marty Brown,” introduced the album’s title song by saying, “I wish I had written this.”

The highpoint of the show came with an emotionally charged version of the new album’s “Forget About Us,” a Springsteenian anthem of lost love. “A good friend of mine, Mark Collie, wrote this song,” said McGraw. “I told him what I wanted and he wrote it in about 10 minutes.” As McGraw began the song, Collie walked out onstage to join him in an intense duet. “We’ll be going on tour in June,” said McGraw, shaking Collie’s hand to cheers, and he then introduced his other touring partner, Kenny Chesney, who drew equally raucous cheers.

McGraw jumped into his old hit “Down on the Farm” and drew laughter and applause when he inserted a line about “Kenny riding horses,” a reference to Chesney’s arrest last year for joyriding on a horse.

McGraw wound up the evening with his current single from the new album,”Grown Men Don’t Cry,” as kids, perched on their parents’ shoulders at stage front, took flash pictures of McGraw.

To further jack up the excitement over Set This Circus Down’s release, McGraw travels to Los Angeles for a free performance Thursday (April 26) at House of Blues, also with the Dancehall Doctors.