Concert review: From the stage to ‘1883,’ nobody performs like Tim McGraw does anymore

The George Jones song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” is a 1985 country standard about carrying on the legacy of the greats, like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and others, while bemoaning the latest crop of country stars as not up-to-snuff.

That song was released before the big boom of ‘90s country introduced fans to folks like Toby Keith, Tim McGraw or Garth Books. It may be blasphemous to say, but it might be time to release a new version of “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” about ‘90s country stars. Case in point: Tim McGraw.

The thing about Tim McGraw is: there’s nobody doing it quite like him anymore, from the ‘90s or today. His brand of earnest ballads, modern-day pop-country and extravagant showmanship has ensured him a longevity and crowd following that only acts like Brooks and Kenny Chesney can match.

And even with a sore throat Friday night at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, McGraw and his band still put on a spectacle, complete with a projector screen that allowed some virtual assistance from country star Faith Hill, Taylor Swift and “Yellowstone.”

McGraw started his set by rising up through the stage in a cloud of smoke and then launched into his 2012 hit “Truck Yeah.” That unfortunate misstep of a modern-day county list song nevertheless got the crowd pumped for an energetic evening. He didn’t take a break to talk to the audience until four songs in, right after his cover of “Tiny Dancer.”

“Hi. My name’s Tim,” he said, understated, before adding, “But you may know me better as Faith’s husband. Or as James Dutton.” That reference to “1883,” the “Yellowstone” spinoff he stars in with his wife Hill, garnered a lot of cheers from the audience. It seemed like the crowd was evenly split between younger people who knew him from his later output on Big Machine and his film and TV roles, and older fans who knew him from his ‘90s heyday.

Both groups of fans got what they wanted, as McGraw and his band ripped through a 20-song, nearly two-hour setlist that spanned his entire career, from “I Like It, I Love It” down to his latest song and tour namesake, “Standing Room Only.”

Standing Room Only

A lot of the recent songs McGraw sang Friday night hearkened back to his older work. “Standing Room Only” isn’t about selling out concerts, but selling out your funeral, recalling the earnestness of “Live Like You were Dying” and “My Next Thirty Years”:

“Stop judging my life by my possessions/Start thinking ‘bout how many headlights will be in my procession.”

Elsewhere, “One Bad Habit” brings to mind the swagger of “Real Good Man” and the sensuality of his duets with Hill. “Highway Don’t Care” and “Felt Good On My Lips” lean more to the pop side of McGraw’s repertoire, but they still feel of a piece with “Red Ragtop” and “I Like It, I Love It,” which made sense with their spots in the setlist.

When an “1883” sizzle reel played before a performance of “The Cowboy In Me” to start the encore, the fans in Dickies Arena went wild. McGraw arranged a new version of the 2001 song for the “Yellowstone” spinoff, making it sound more rustic and acoustic.

There were clearly a lot of “Yellowstone” fans in the house, highlighting McGraw’s ability to use his older catalog to inform his new work. But his biggest superpower came at the end of the night: McGraw’s ability to sing earnest “Live Like You Were Dying” lines like “I went 2.7 seconds/on a bull named Fu Manchu” and get an entire arena to sing along, and know he means it.

Who’s gonna fill his shoes, indeed?


  1. Truck Yeah

  2. Southern Voice

  3. All I Want Is A Life

  4. Tiny Dancer (Elton John cover)

  5. Just To See You Smile

  6. Over and Over

  7. Shotgun Rider (2014)

  8. One Bad Habit

  9. Watch The Wind Blow By

  10. Something Like That

  11. Where the Green Grass Grows

  12. Standing Room Only

  13. Red Ragtop

  14. Highway Don’t Care (with Taylor Swift video playing behind him)

  15. I Like It, I Love It

  16. Felt Good On My Lips

  17. Real Good Man


  1. The Cowboy in Me (with “1883” video beforehand)

  2. Humble and Kind

  3. Live Like You Were Dying