Tim McGraw, along with Cassadee Pope and Kip Moore, brought the #SundownHeavenTown Tour to West Palm Beach, Florida Friday night, July 11th. Between the heat in the air and the heat on the stage, the tour kicked off the Cruzan Amphitheatre summer concert series in the hottest of ways! With temperatures in excess of ninety degrees, coupled with South Florida humidity that creates a heaviness in the air akin to that of pea soup, the three performers didn’t bat an eye or miss a note, despite the obviously uncomfortable conditions.
The show began with West Palm Beach’s pride and joy, Cassadee Pope. The only thing lacking from Cassadee’s performance was time allotment. I have seen Cassadee headline a show in her hometown before and she has everything it takes to entertain a crowd for an extended period. She has the energy, the spirit, the fan interaction, the personality, and, of course, the unwavering vocals. Although she is capped due to time restraints considering there are three artists on the bill, seeing Cassadee on stage and hearing her songs come to life is a beautiful experience that should be witnessed for far longer than five songs.
With that said, seeing Cassadee on stage and hearing her songs come to life is a beautiful experience that everyone should witness. Cassadee kicked off the night with her latest single “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart.” Clad in a short dress, perfect for a Florida girl celebrating her homecoming, Cassadee moved around the stage, playing to all sides of the pit section, sharing her attention with those who were within reach and those who were clamoring to see her from the distant lawn seats. The set continued with the second track off her album Frame By Frame, “Champagne.” While performing this fun song that shows off Cassadee’s range, Cassadee accomplished the incredibly difficult task of simultaneously singing and taking selfies with audience members’ phones, never skipping a beat.
Next, Cassadee performed “11,” a song penned by the talented singer/songwriter about her family, specifically her parents’ divorce. As Cassadee prepared to take on the double duty of guitar player and vocalist on this song, she explained “this is the most personal song on my album.” With her family sitting in the audience singing along, Cassadee strummed the guitar and poured her heart into her autobiographical track that transports her to a difficult time in her childhood. In a quick transition from an emotional-filled track to a light, carefree song about love, Cassadee performed “This Car,” all the while bending down (and doing so classily in that aforementioned dress) to take photos with those audience members in the VIP pit section.
The short, but stellar, set ended with Cassadee’s hit song “Wasting All These Tears” (for which Cassadee won the CMT Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year). During this song, Cassadee spotted her proud and adoring family members and blew kisses their way. In a personal favorite moment of the live version of Cassadee’s debut country single, she sings the line “I wish I could erase our memory” sans instrumentation, altering the song just enough to make it a distinct live version while maintaining the integrity of the track with which country music fans fell in love.
Throughout Cassadee’s entire set, she remained attentive and interactive with her fans, showing sincere gratitude for every person who arrived early to see her perform. Cassadee’s evident and ongoing appreciation for country music and its fans is one of the many special qualities she possesses as an artist and a person. The overwhelming response from people who are fortunate enough to meet Cassadee is always that she is the sweetest, most gracious, and most humble person out there. I could not echo that sentiment more. Those qualities are transferrable to Cassadee “the artist” and shine through every moment she is on the stage. An opener’s job is to warm the crowd up and get it excited for the rest of the event and, by employing these qualities and adding in conversation, humor, and incomparable effervescence, Cassadee performed her task like a true expert in her field.
Kip Moore took the stage next and showed the versatility of his artistry instantaneously. For a man who introduced himself to country music with tracks such as “Beer Money” and “Pretty Girl,” the country rock style is a departure from what a first time Kip show-goer would expect. At the same time, it is a style to which a first time Kip show-goer would be pleasantly surprised and excited to receive an introduction. What is spectacular about Kip Moore is that he can seamlessly overcome the feat of singing the traditional country tune back-to-back with a song delivery that could be compared to some of music’s most renowned rockers.
Kip opened his set with grit and ferocity, introducing music off his next album and keeping with his rock ‘n’ roll theme for a greater part of his show. A personal favorite aspect to Kip’s music, namely the music that veers more toward country rock, is that it almost adopts the mentality of “hidden gems.” As of late, it has become clear that Kip’s music straddles the line between country and classic rock. It straddles the line so closely that an observant listener can easily identify influences from artists in the classic rock genre. In Kip’s new single, “Dirt Road,” traces of Guns N’ Roses are detectable. In another song, there is a distinct moment that is comparable to The Rolling Stones’ “Start It Up.” Finding these little hidden moments in Kip’s music is enticing and has led to me wanting to invest in his next album, just to continue my search for the next recognizable lyrics or riffs.
Of course, Kip also performed his hit songs, including the sentimental ballad “Pretty Girl,” which he began singing acapella. Though I could have listened to Kip acapella for the entirety of the track, his band joined in, making this one of the highlights of Kip’s set. Another highlight was Kip’s cover of the 1980’s Ben E. King song “Stand By Me,” which showed off Kip’s ability, once again, to dip his toes into different genres and immediately become comfortable in those waters. To complete his set, Kip told us a little “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” … and we listened. The crowd cheered and sang along to an obvious fan-favorite, ending the set with the perfect amount of energy to prepare the audience for its headliner.
I want to preface this section by saying that since 1996, I have never missed Tim McGraw in concert. With or without Faith Hill on the bill, I have loyally gotten my Tim fix since the year I discovered songs like “Refried Dreams,” “All I Want,” and, my absolute favorite Tim ballad, “Can’t Be Really Gone.” My love for Tim McGraw goes back to a day when Faith Hill was his opening act on stage and not his co-star in life. I live for older Tim music, which may or may not be defined as “classic Tim,” as I am a fan of a lot of the music that didn’t receive much radio play or didn’t receive any at all.
Tim appropriately opened his set with “One of Those Nights,” letting audience members know that the night they were about to experience would be unforgettable and one for the books. And, as a nearly twenty-year fan and attendee of Tim shows, there has yet to be one that was worth forgetting, and this one can certainly be added to the list. Tim performed old hits and new releases, all the while taking breaks to pay his respects to country music radio (specifically 103.1 WIRK and 99.9 Kiss Country).
The choices from Tim’s catalog were intelligent, only (and unfortunately) eliminating “Don’t Take the Girl” from the songs fans would expect to hear. Highlights of the show included crowd favorites “I Like It, I Love It,” “Indian Outlaw,” and “Something Like That.” With each of these songs, the audience assisted Tim with the lyrics, carrying the choruses in some instances as he held the microphone out toward the crowd and encouraged participation. The colorful lights flashed, the video screens actively showed graphics that complemented the lighting, and the energy of Tim and his band was insurmountable.
Other obvious fan favorites included the slower paced “Red Ragtop,” “Better Than I Used to Be,” “Please Remember Me,” “The Highway Don’t Care,” and “Cowboy In Me.” While it was unimaginable how Tim would perform “The Highway Don’t Care” without Taylor Swift’s vocal accompaniment and Keith Urban’s unparalleled guitar skills, the trio turned solo was performed flawlessly, utilizing the sound system to supply Taylor’s portions and one of Tim’s band members for the extraordinary guitar run at the end.
Just before the encore of “Live Like You Were Dying,” Tim performed one of his most recent hits, “Felt Good on My Lips.” Surprising the audience, Kip Moore returned to the stage for an assist with this song, helping Tim with the final verse and chorus. Hilariously during this performance, an audience member handed Tim a muscle shirt that contained the words “#hashtag# idontgiveashit.” Tim glanced at the shirt, laughed, and handed it off to Kip who held it up against his body as he continued to sing. When the song came to a conclusion, Kip catapulted the shirt into the crowd. I’m sure the person who caught it was excited about his/her souvenir and certainly gave a you-know-what!
Tim rounded out his lengthy, but entertaining, show with his most critically acclaimed song to date, “Live Like You Were Dying.” Like with all other Tim McGraw shows, the crowd joined to create a mass sing-along. A powerful song that has the ability to touch everybody in an audience, arms were raised, fists were pumped, and a sea of people pointed toward the sky as they “watched the eagle as it was flyin’.” Every Tim show since the song was released in 2004 has resulted in me leaving, speaking of the intensity and emotion that you can feel in the venue during the live rendition of “Live Like You Were Dying,” and Friday night, in West Palm Beach, tens of thousands of locals came together to share in a “moment.” The show could not have ended on a better note, as it is impossible to leave a Tim McGraw show after this song and feel unfulfilled.
As a whole, the Sundown Heaven Town Tour was entertaining, surprising, gratifying, and just a plain ole good time. We may just have been country boys and girls gettin’ down on the farm, but we had the time of our lives doing it!
Tim, Cassadee, and Kip remain on tour throughout the summer, so make sure to check out Tim’s website for remaining dates and ticket information.
Follow me on Twitter @JenSwirsky and let me know if you attended a Sundown Heaven Town Tour date and what you thought of the show!