Like a desert mirage, images of Tim McGraw appeared to pop up everywhere during Curb Records’ label show Tuesday morning (June 13) at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.
McGraw headlined the show, which kicked off Day Two of International Country Music Fan Fair. Many of his male admirers have adopted his look: wide-brimmed black cowboy hat, form-fitting black T-shirt and a closely trimmed goatee.
Jo Dee Messina, also on the bill, noticed the proliferation of McGraw lookalikes filing by as she performed. “There’s somebody else who looks like Tim McGraw,” she said as one member of the audience gave her something to pass on to the singer.
McGraw played to an enthusiastic crowd. In contrast to Monday’s gathering, those who came for the Curb show arrived early. By the 10 a.m. start, all seats in the shade of the large grandstand overhang had been snapped up. Less than two weeks after his arrest for an altercation with police in upstate New York, McGraw was in good spirits, though he cautioned the crowd, “We’re a little under the weather,” as he began singing his current single, “Some Things Never Change.”
With heavy wattage also supplied by LeAnn Rimes, Jo Dee Messina and Sawyer Brown, Curb’s offerings burned brightly, even in the midday sun. Messina dressed in a hot pink tank top that made her easy to spot. She previewed her new album, Burn, due out Aug. 1, by performing several songs from the set. Messina invited a quartet of dancers to join her on one number, “That’s the Way,” in a presentation reminiscent of a Gap ad or a Reba McEntire-style production number. She also explored Latin stylings with “Get Up and Dance,” in which she played lead guitar and congas.
Rimes, at 17 years old, continues to mature as a vocalist and performer. Though she has talked recently about moving away from country, she performed a set that included “Blue,” the best-selling, traditional-country single that kicked off her career. Host Mark Miller, of Sawyer Brown, introduced Rimes as “probably the biggest female star in America.” She responded by performing “Big Deal” as her opening number. Her set also included a futuristic, rock-oriented arrangement of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and “How Do I Live,” the song she recorded for the movie Con Air, only to have it scuttled in favor of a recording of the song by Trisha Yearwood.
Sawyer Brown, perennial fan favorites, are about to release a live album, their 17th overall. Miller, dressed in cattle-print pants, vigorously fronted the group, inciting the crowd with his trademark hip swiveling, head shaking, swirling, leg-kicking and leaping dances. The group did a new number, “In a Perfect World,” and ended their set with a crunchy cover of Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business.”
Rimes, Messina, Sawyer Brown and McGraw all had half-hour segments. Three still-developing acts — Shane McAnally, Tamara Walker and Steve Holy — shared a half-hour.
McGraw was the crowd favorite. One group of women, sporting fur-trimmed green straw hats, carried a banner which read, in part, “Tim, we came all the way from Ireland … just to see you smile.” He joked about his recent run-in with the law quipping, after “Down on the Farm,” “Kenny, stay off those horses.”
One person in the throng filing by offered McGraw a pair of toy handcuffs. The singer left them at the edge of the stage.