June 2nd, 2010 at 12:38 pm
How much do you expect from a free show?
How many songs, how many hits, and how much of a visual spectacle can one reasonably expect from a concert you didnât have to pay for?
Some 10,000 fans â perhaps closer to 15,000 â got a lesson in free shows on Tuesday (June 1) night in a mostly full Bud Walton Arena on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville.
Courtesy of Wal-Mart, country mega-star Tim McGraw, who drew 10,000 fans (at $50-$75 per ticket) to Verizon Arena in North Little Rock in April, played a free show in advance of the companyâs Shareholdersâ meeting. That same kind of concert (free) will happen tonight at Bud Walton with REO Speedwagon and Barenaked Ladies. Wal-Mart associates will be admitted at 6:20 p.m.; members of the public at 6:45 p.m. The show is expected to start at 7 p.m.
McGraw and company are mostly here to entertain guests from the dozens of countries who have gathered for the retailerâs annual meeting, but members of the public were allowed to fill the empty spaces in the arena.
What they witnessed was an abbreviated version of a Tim McGraw concert. His set clocked in at just less than an hour, and his enthusiasm may have been short, too, or seemed that way after an feisty performance by the opening act, the Zac Brown Band.
Click the âRead the rest of the storyâ link to continue reading about McGrawâs recent performance in Fayetteville.
McGraw rarely played guitar, instead pacing the stage in a pink shirt, a black cowboy hat and impossibly tight jeans. His set list, if short, was like a greatest hits album, darting between some of his bigger songs: âLive Like You Were Dying,â âCowboy in Me,â âI Like It, I Love Itâ and many more.
In the process, he also came off a bit like heâd turned on the radio and took the night off. His set was fine if you wanted to hear the song in a bland recitation of its recorded version, but it lacked a great deal of spontaneity if you wanted to see a little life breathed into the songs.
That didnât stop a large percentage of the audience from singing his songs back at him with enthusiasm. After the first three songs, he was three-for-three on getting the audience to sing back at full volume. And that goes a long way to explain McGrawâs chief strength: although the verses of his songs are somewhat interchangeable and unimportant, the pop-heavy choruses make for an easy singalong.
Youâll find no shortage of critical praise for McGrawâs normal backing band â The Dancehall Doctors â on the Internet. While I presume that it was indeed The Dancehall Doctors he had with him on Tuesday evening, by my count, it was nearly 45 minutes into the show before I heard anything that resembled a guitar solo.
There was plenty to watch while McGraw was onstage, both with the massive video boards that played a montage behind the band and with the lead singer himself, as he spent a great deal of his hour giving high-fives to fans in the front rows.
He may have pleased some fans, but I suspect he left some wanting, too.
I donât know if Iâd say the same of the openers, Zac Brown Band. The group veered a bit too deeply into country music cliches â specifically with a cover of Charlie Danielsâ âDevil Went Down To Georgiaâ and images of American flags on the video boards â but they played an energetic set almost the length of the headliners. They filled their 50 minutes with nine songs (as opposed to the 13 that McGraw played in his 55 minutes) by jamming around the meat-and-potatoes country song framework.
Brown proved during a brief rendition of âAmerica the Beautifulâ that he had the best voice in the arena, and his band ably filled in behind him, even if some of the solos seemed out of sync with everything else that was happening. Brown and company played a few of his own hits â and a song that will certainly become one, a new tune called âKnee Deepâ Â â and bits of a few by others. His band covered âDevilâ and also sampled Van Morrisonâs âInto The Mysticâ during the middle section of the Zac Brown song âFree.â
He closed with the song that everyone expected him to close with: âChicken Fried,â a song about the simple pleasures in life, including cold beer, jeans that fill well and the radio turned up loud.
He ought to add free concerts to that list.
Tim McGraw set list: 1) Real Good Man; 2) Last Dollar (Fly Away); 3) Where The Green Grass Grows; 4) Back When; 5) Still; 6) Down on the Farm; 7) Everybody Hates Me; 8) [I did not catch this title]; 9) I Like It, I Love It; 10) The Heart Don’t Forget; 11) Southern Voice; 12) Live Like You Were Dying; 13) Cowboy in Me
Zac Brown Band set list: 1) Toes; 2) Whatever It Is; 3) It’s Not OK; 4) Highway 20 Ride; 5) Who Knows; 6) Devil Went Down To Georgia; 7) Knee Deep; 8) Free/Into The Mystic; 9) America The Beautiful/Chicken Fried