Hot Summer Tours
The hottest country tours of the summer find superstars at the top of their game with opening acts capable of headlining their own sets. The best summer shows take place outdoors, and encourage extensive tailgating before and after a four-hour-long country jam.
These five tours are the perfect package of atmosphere and good music. Kenny Chesney set the standard of what a modern country concert should look like, and he lands high on the 2013 ToC Hot Summer Tours list. Tim McGraw's return to the road makes the cut, as does the most creative singer and stage technician around: Brad Paisley. None of these three men come in at No. 1, however. That honor goes to a superstar who's been cooped up indoors for far too long.
Tim McGraw is reengergized with new music and, most importantly, a new record label home. It shows on his first major tour since signing with Big Machine Records. Old hits come alive again, and songs from his new album make for much more than "grab a beer" moments. 'Highway Don't Care' is one of those songs you yearn to see live. Opening act Brantley Gilbert is relatively new to playing amphitheaters (although he opened for Toby Keith in 2012), but his live pedigree should erase any doubt of his potential. Leave the parking lot early to catch him play.
Brad Paisley's tour might be the only sure thing in country music. He reinvents his stage show yearly to include new theatrics, and every new element includes his personal stamp. Musically, he'll stop you dead with ballads like 'When I Get Where I'm Going' before ripping through a hit song like 'Old Alabama' or a deep cut like 'Hey Mr. Policeman.' Opener Chris Young has one of the purest voices in country music, and his new material promises to prove he's much more than a balladeer. Lee Brice is among the best club acts, and he's more than ready to take his passion and energy to the big stage.
While Darius Rucker's country catalog is limited in comparison to the more established names on this list, he's quite possibly the best performer of the group. Rucker mixes up hits like 'This' and 'Don't Think I Don't Think About It' with songs from his Hootie and the Blowfish days and cover songs like Prince's 'Purple Rain' -- a true show-stopper. It might be worth it just to watch him sing 'Wagon Wheel.' Opener Rodney Atkins is no slouch on stage, and the two men have toured together a lot in recent years. Justin Moore and Jana Kramer also bring a lot of excitement this summer.
The hottest opening acts available continue to make Kenny Chesney's tour a must-see for country music fans. The country superstar's venues and setlists remain mostly the same year after year, but he introduces his fans to some of the most interesting and exciting artists available. This year it's Eric Church, the Eli Young Band and Kacey Musgraves. The 'Blowin' Smoke' singer still has something to prove as a credible stage act, but Church and the EYB are certified sensations that won't be intimidated by playing football stadiums. Much like a Jimmy Buffett show, fans come for the atmosphere almost as much as the music.
For years, Keith Urban preferred arenas to amphitheaters, but his Light the Fuse Tour with Little Big Town and Dustin Lynch finds him playing outdoors well into October. Urban is a technician on stage, and he's at the top of his game, with a hefty career catalog to choose hits from. You'll have a new respect for this performer after seeing him live. The thought of singing along to 'Days Go By' with 20,000 other screaming fans beneath a clear summer night sky is too good pass up.