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Chesney and McGraw bring party rock to the Georgia Dome

Tim McGraw's soulfulness was apparent throughout the show. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen

Tim McGraw's soulfulness was apparent throughout the show. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen

When the tailgating starts before noon, you know it’s a party day.

That’s how hundreds of the 46,000-plus who later filled the Georgia Dome prepped for the “Brothers of the Sun” show, a seven-hour bonanza of country-rock anchored by megastars Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw with an opening assist from Jake Owen and Chesney pal Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

Sunday’s marathon, the second night of a 22-date tour stretching through late August (weekends only), featured an exhausting – in a good way – parade of hits from two of the genre’s most likeable poster boys.

The show also managed to nearly break the shrill-o-meter with a surprise appearance from Atlanta’s Zac Brown during Chesney’s set (more on that later) and a cameo from a guy who is pretty comfortable in the Dome – Falcons coach Mike Smith.

Chesney and McGraw, longtime friends who haven’t toured together in more than a decade, are an interesting pair. If Chesney’s pop parallel is Jimmy Buffett, thanks to a handful of songs soaked in tequila and coated with a sea breeze, McGraw’s catalog has a few arteries attached to the heart of Billy Joel’s thoughtful piano offerings.

After opening sets from Owen and Potter, McGraw, trim, tan and muscular in white jeans and T-shirt and a black hat, strolled out for the opening “Felt Good on My Lips.”

As with any stadium show, unless you’re in the first five rows, the concert is viewed primarily on video screens. Smart planning ensured that two super-sharp screens flanking the stage and an adjustable-sized one behind the drum riser provided zoom-level looks at McGraw. Not surprisingly, the cell phone cameras of many females in the crowd clicked as quickly when he turned to walk away as they did when McGraw faced forward. Oh, the perils of being a heartthrob.

Live, McGraw isn’t the unfurled fireball of energy that Chesney demonstrated himself to be; but he’s so casually cool onstage that even when he pulled out a trite, “Let me hear you scream!”, it sounded genuine.

Both headliners amassed substantial set lists for the tour, with McGraw’s zig-zagging from the cranked-up honky-tonk of “Down on the Farm” to the chainsaw guitar grind of “Real Good Man” to the easy-strumming ballad, “Everywhere.” Of course the Georgia-related lyric in the song elicited the usual, “Hey! We live here!” hooting from the well-sloshed crowd.

McGraw sounded strong throughout his 90-minute set, and while it’s always a blast to hear the boogie-woogie piano that signals the summery “Something Like That” and the silly fun of “I Like It, I Love It,” he was most effective when the tempo slowed.

“You can always make up for things. You can always do right,” he said by way of introducing “Better Than I Used to Be,” a heart-poking ballad of redemption. But it was still the sweetly reflective “Live Like You Were Dying” that reigned as the set highlight.

Several in the crowd held up photos of McGraw’s late father, Tug, in his New York Mets uniform, as the country maestro delivered the song beautifully with long-held notes and a noticeable affection for its message.

McGraw’s soulfulness isn’t something that can be taught for the sake of schmoozing an audience; it’s his authenticity that makes him so attractive.

Kenny chesney clearly had a blast throughout his set. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen

Kenny chesney clearly had a blast throughout his set. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen

Though this tour is clearly a balanced pairing of country titans, Chesney’s nearly two-hour follow-up set rocketed from the first notes with a roar that felt more like a headliner’s than McGraw’s spin in the spotlight.

Even before Chesney arrived, the audience was amped and shouting along to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.” So, when moments later, Chesney appeared at a small stage at the back of the venue for “Beer in Mexico,” then flew over the crowd on a high-backed seat, it was if the king had arrived.

The sound during Chesney’s first few songs was either puzzlingly low or, because the Georgia Dome is more like a giant arena, the sound became trapped inside so the fans singing along drowned out his vocals.

None of that mattered, though, because Chesney is the Ambassador of Happiness. Rare was the moment when a grin wasn’t plastered on his face as he skittered around the stage in his sleeveless T-shirt, tight jeans and cowboy hat, a mass of frantic energy under a schizophrenic wall of strobe lights.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect THIS!” he told the audience about his maiden appearance at the Dome.

Drenched in sweat a few songs into the set, Chesney bounced from “Summertime” to “Reality” to the full-throttle rocker “Live Those Songs” with a contagious energy that ripped through the crowd.

While his persona of the good-time beach bum peeked out – and it’s a persona many men in the audience seem to have adopted given the number of flip-flops spotted – on “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems” and his acoustic duet with the leggy Potter on “You and Tequila,” Chesney’s songs offer plenty of meat to chew on.

His new “Come Over” features some grand, U2-like “whoa-oh”’s at the end – custom made for stadium singaglongs – and “Young,” during which he raced around the quadrant of the catwalk jutting from the stage, borrows stylistically from the Book of Springsteen.

Video screens afforded great views of the show. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen

Video screens afforded great views of the show. Photo credit: Robb D. Cohen

The delirious audience was already enraptured by Chesney before Brown, a good friend of the Tennessee boy, came out for an acoustic duet on the Zac Brown Band/Jimmy Buffett hit “Knee Deep” and an unexpected run through Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight.”

The energy rarely flagged during Chesney’s set – though there was a brief moment of deflation after Brown departed. But those who decided to hit the exits early to beat traffic missed what is really the essence of this tour: Chesney and McGraw together.

Starting their encore – fittingly – with their hit duet, “Feel Like a Rockstar,” which featured McGraw popping up from the back of the stadium – the pair traded tunes (“She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” from Chesney, “Indian Outlaw” from McGraw) in a gleeful burst of camaraderie.

McGraw said in a recent interview that this joint tour took so long to materialize because of timing. Few would argue that they didn’t time this one perfectly.

Tim McGraw set list

  • “Felt Good on My Lips”
  • “For a Little While”
  • “Down on the Farm”
  • “Real Good Man”
  • “Last Dollar (Fly Away)”
  • “Unbroken”
  • “Everywhere”
  • “Where the Green Grass Grows”
  • “Mexicoma”
  • “All I Want”
  • “Just to See You Smile”
  • “Better Than I Used to Be”
  • “Let it Go”
  • “How Bad Do You Want It”
  • “Sing Me Home”
  • “Something Like That”
  • “Southern Voice”
  • “Live Like You Were Dying”

Encore

  • “Cowboy in Me”
  • “I Like It, I Love It”
  • “Truck Yeah”

Kenny Chesney set list

  • “Beer in Mexico”
  • “Keg in the Closet”
  • “Summertime”
  • “Reality”
  • “Live Those Songs”
  • “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems”
  • “What I Need to Do”
  • “I Go Back”
  • “Come Over”
  • “Anything But Mine”
  • “You and Tequila” (with Grace Potter)
  • “Back Where I Come From”
  • “Living in Fast Forward”
  • “Young”
  • “Somewhere With You”
  • “Never Wanted Nothing More”
  • “Knee Deep” (with Zac Brown)
  • “Dixieland Delight (with Zac Brown)
  • “Out Last Night”
  • “When the Sun Goes Down”
  • “Don’t Happen Twice”
  • “Boys of Fall”

Encore with Tim McGraw

  • “Feel Like a Rockstar”
  • “Refried Dreams”
  • “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”
  • “Indian Outlaw”
  • “Running on Empty”

Check out more photos from the show…here.

By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

Follow me on Twitter: @ajc_music

40 comments Add your comment

Deb

June 4th, 2012
8:49 am

I was there and it was amazing the energy in that place. And all the “strangers” around me were so nice and friendly and it was just plain fun!! McGraw nor Chesney need comparison to anyone who came before – they are both uniquely talented and accomplished all on their own. Not to mention gorgeous. :)

Tim

June 4th, 2012
9:11 am

IT WAS AWESOME!… I may not hear normal ever again, but the show, the set, the song list was tops!

Cheap Seat

June 4th, 2012
9:17 am

Decided to attend the show at 2 pm. Bought the cheapest ticket ($35.50) at ticketmaster. Arrived at 4:30 pm. While walking up the ramp to section 351, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney were coming down the ramp. Just two guys, no security, and they talked to fans and took pictures for a while. Very cool. This was three hours before they went on stage!

ts

June 4th, 2012
9:19 am

The concert was well worth the 7hr. and the money. The crowd was great and had lots of energy, as Kenny Chesney’s crowd usually brings it. Kenny’s genuine excitement and energy makes for a well performed show and Tim Mcgraw’s performance was a double bonus. I was skeptical about the dome and viewing, but the big screens did help. I wouldn’t advise floor seats unless you really like to be very close to strangers. The chairs are tied together are like the ones used for the little pop up four seater poker tables. However, the good acts make you feel a little better about being cramped, but no room to really sway with the tunes. I don’t think I would do a stadium floor seat again.

tm

June 4th, 2012
9:35 am

The screens were incredible, and the performances were as well, but Kenney’s sound was really poor. Tim’s sounded MUCH better, so it had nothing to do with the dome. I dont know if the sound board guy just thought he needed to turn everything up, but you could barely hear Kenney’s voice on many of his rocking songs. The lights on the dome ceiling just added to the overall appearance- would not be nearly as effective in an open air stadium. Great show for the price- well rehearsed. You just can’t help but think they are truly having a great time on stage.

Loveatlanta

June 4th, 2012
9:38 am

@cheap seat – Those were two really good look-alikes who made the rounds before, during and after the show. Sorry :(

skipper

June 4th, 2012
10:03 am

What was the deal with the guy who Tim McGraw brought on the stage and had him sit down at the front of the stage for a few minutes and then told him to leave?

JP

June 4th, 2012
10:14 am

48 songs between the two!! Fantastic show. Personally, I thought Tim’s performance was much better. As in Tampa the night before, Kenny’s audio was bad, although I like Kenny a lot, I thought the intro was a bit cheesy and did not work for me. Overall, still a great show!

Nikki

June 4th, 2012
11:16 am

I am so upset I missed it. I was suppose to walk up and get a ticket since the show was not sold out. My boyfriend and I got into a huge argument and that just ruined my plans for the rest of the day. I know this was an amazing show.

mary

June 4th, 2012
11:16 am

grrrreaaat photos Guys!! Good job!!

lanie

June 4th, 2012
11:41 am

I all but slept through Tim McGraws performance he was just something you had to listen to to get to hear Kenny. He could have had no audio and still blown Tim’s out of the water.

David

June 4th, 2012
11:43 am

What time was the concert over?

Eric

June 4th, 2012
12:02 pm

The acoustics in the Georgia Dome are TERRIBLE! The echo from that, and the lousy sound system pretty much ruined the concert for me. No more concerts at the Dome!

Elwood

June 4th, 2012
12:14 pm

What was the deal with the Guy McGraw had sit at the end of the stage and then leave……Very strange..

David

June 4th, 2012
12:39 pm

WHat time did it end?

Amy Dunn

June 4th, 2012
12:43 pm

Amazing show! I went to see Kenny primarily but left so impressed with Tim. We were disappointed that Kenny didn’t really come down to the end of the stage more than a couple of times in the sandbar. Tim did a much better job of working the whole catwalk and engaging those close to the stage. Still loved the show!

David

June 4th, 2012
12:44 pm

What time was the show over?

Long Time Cobb Resident & Cobb Graduate

June 4th, 2012
1:03 pm

WHAT A KILLER SHOW! Jake Owen was great, Grace was good on ballads, Tim McGraw… just fabulous… Kenny… great entertainer. I dont think I have seen grown men smile that much EVER or look so hot! The sound for Kenny was bad in the beginning, but it evened out. Maybe less band, more Singer? And they worked in SO many songs; lots of times you dont hear a ton of songs. Not so here. 42 songs?! One of the best concerts I have been to in a LONG time. Now if they would just reduce parking $$….

David

June 4th, 2012
1:10 pm

ANY IDEA WHAT TIME THE SHOW ENDED?

BB

June 4th, 2012
1:23 pm

The concert ended at around 11:30pm. The guy Tim McGraw brought out was someone who had to fix some type of issue that they had on the stage I think.

ramsey

June 4th, 2012
1:27 pm

@ David – Yes… It ended after they played “Running On Empty”

Barbara

June 4th, 2012
1:27 pm

It ended at 11:30 pm-ish and I was there the entire time. A very entertaining show with a mix of talent and fun.

Josie

June 4th, 2012
1:28 pm

Jesus David!
About 10:45

David

June 4th, 2012
1:33 pm

LaLa

June 4th, 2012
1:56 pm

I am not a country fan – just love Tim McGraw. I was one of the fans taking photos of him when he faced the audience and when we walked away :) . Truly enjoyed the show. I continue to be a huge fan of Tim’s for more than just his looks and am now a Kenny fan. Country music has a convert.

big Daddy

June 4th, 2012
2:29 pm

I was there and both Tim and Kenny struggled with the sound all night. In fact, Tim at one point early was frustrated and brought someone on stage (end of stage) had him sit down to drive a point home. I do not believe it is the dome as the Kenny intro video with AC/DC recording was on cue from a sound perspective. I think the audio crew was struggling for some of the event but both Tim and Kenny pressed on as they are both best in class performers. While not the same venue, the sound crew who did Jason Aldeans recent show were on all night!! Best sound I have heard in years..

Sheryl

June 4th, 2012
2:36 pm

It was an awesome concert. I could’ve done without Grace Potter, but she was good when she sang ‘You and Tequila’ with Kenny. I thought the place was going to explode when they brought out Zac Brown! I’m ready to go on the road and see them again!

Stringbean

June 4th, 2012
4:12 pm

The energy in the Dome was incredible. Best concert in a long, long time. Worth every penny and we thought the floor seats were great. Pictures of Kenny flying over our heads made up for any shortcomings. Sound was a bit rough in spots but it’s live music. If you want recorded quality go buy the CD!

IJustDontGetIT

June 4th, 2012
5:05 pm

The show was spectacular!! McGraw is gorgeous (and he can sing too!!) Chesney is an incredible performer!! Lots of good energy in the Georgia Dome last night!!

Ken

June 4th, 2012
5:30 pm

My wife and I went in 2001 when Kenny was a nobody and opened for Tim at his Set This Circus Down tour. Going back to see them last night was awesome, although the sound issue was disappointing. Didn’t notice it with Tim, but it lasted all night with Kenny, including his duets with Tim for the encore. How does someone not figure that out and fix it???

NoShoes

June 4th, 2012
7:59 pm

These guys were amazing. If you are reading this in a city that they are coming to, go find tickets. Tons of energy…all great songs…worth every penny.

Kayla

June 4th, 2012
9:22 pm

I wish I could see them in concert. I was so disappointed when I found out they weren’t coming to Canada. ): Oh well, I’ll just wait until June 19th to get a new fix of KC.

Necole

June 4th, 2012
11:41 pm

Great concert! I am convinced however that Kenny was high as a kite. I believe that he would test positive if asked to be drug tested. I was in the sandbar… literally on the stage. I could see the whites of all the entertainers eyes. Jake was really good and as cute as could be. Grace Potter rocked! Tim was sooooo hot and sexy and his vocals were right on!!!!! I have seen Kenny so many times and will forever love his music, but the sound was bad and I was shocked to see him in what I believe was a drug induced performance. Still loved it all!! Hope Kenny is ok!!!!!!

LOVE THAT TIM!!!

June 5th, 2012
11:15 am

Awesome show! I could watch Tim all night long! The music and the performances were worth the money and well worth the 7 hours I spent at the dome! I have seen Tim 4 times in 3 years and he gets better everytime!

[...] was a surprise guest at Sunday’s Georgia Dome show with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw. The bearded one collaborated with buddy Chesney on ZBB’s [...]

Eli

June 5th, 2012
8:10 pm

Best concert ever!!!! And David I left at 11:15 and still messed 4 songs! Damn it man!!

Viv

June 5th, 2012
9:46 pm

Anyone recall what time all the acts went on stage or approximate times? For either the Tampa or Georgia show this weekend? I’ll be seeing them in Chicago in July…thanks

Ken

June 6th, 2012
8:04 am

Viv, it went like this (approximately):
Jake Owen:

Ken

June 6th, 2012
8:05 am

Oops…try that again — Jack Owen: 4:30; Grace Potter: 5:30; Tim: 6:45; Kenny: 8:45

Viv

June 6th, 2012
10:20 pm

Oh you’re awesome thanks