Pharrell Williams and Spike Lee, Kings of Leon and Fred Armisen, Vampire Weekend and Steve Buscemi, The Killers and Werner Herzog, Usher and Hamish Hamilton and Kenny Chesney and Jonathan Demme. Sure enough, you can add Grammy award-winning, country icon Tim McGraw and award-winning director Bennett Miller to the list of the illustrious pairing in American Express Unstaged’s popular live stream music series. This cool series allows fans to watch the powerful concerts from their phone, tablet or computer. Tim’s September 16 concert from New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom was a coming-out party for Tim, as his new album, Sundown Heaven Town was released that day.
American Express sent me to New York, and I got to chew away the hours at Toronto Pearson before the flight relaxing in Amex’s Plaza Premium Lounge, available for select Cardmembers. I don’t fly very well (actually, I don’t really FLY the plane, but you know what I mean), so having this access was superb for me. The complimentary Wi-Fi helped me play catch-up on work, and plan my day in NYC. There was enough great food and drinks to keep my stomach occupied, too.
The excitement was in the air before Tim and his band hit the stage. This is, after all, one of country music’s biggest superstars – a performer with 25 #1’s on the Hot Country Songs or Country Airplay charts. A singer with 10 #1 albums on the Top Country Albums charts. A man married to Faith Hill. Would she appear and show support? Would she even sing? Is she even in the building?
We would have to wait for these answers, but the crowd didn’t mind – the hits were all there. A perfectly-jointed 16 song set including “Live Like You Were Dying”, “Truck Yeah”, “Where the Green Grass Grows” (a song that turns 17 this year!), and turning “Southern Girl” into “Northern Girl” for the New York crowd, there wasn’t anything Tim could do wrong. He commands your attention, he deserves the stage, he owns the room, just like his father Tug did all those years ago as a major league pitcher.
Tim’s songs assume an even more poignant tone in concert than on record. His messages are so on – Sundown Heaven Town is, he says, is like playing little league baseball. Growing up in a little town in Louisiana, a little league baseball park with the sun just going down at dusk, the smell of the concession stand. It’s a real Americana image that he gets. He’s part of the great storytellers in music like Springsteen, The Who, Adele – holding up a mirror to his audience and singing back to them. When it’s all said and done, Tim McGraw is country.
There’s little to fault with Tim. He’s what we want and need in music. And if people still need to be told how cool it is to be Mr. McGraw, midway through “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,” Faith made her way through the crowd to join Tim to loud applause. Not only did the audience love their playfulness, but Tim bowed to his better half in appreciation. Heck, we all did.
The album cover of Sundown says it all. He’s lean and lethal. American Express Unstaged showed Tim McGraw is back on the stage, on the radio, and on the charts. Heaven, look out and get ready for the knockout. If you missed the show while it was happening, be sure to go to www.amexunstaged.com to see this unshakable performer at his best.