Tim McGraw brought charismatic swagger to his WE Fest set on Saturday night (Aug. 6). Mixing old with new, country with rock and blues and choreographed poses with impromptu fan interaction, the 49-year-old headliner gave a master class on how to entertain country music’s largest outdoor audience.

If “How Bad Do You Want It” didn’t get fans to their feet, “Where the Green Grass Grows” did. “I Like It, I Love It,” was a massive singalong — for nearly a full minute McGraw held the microphone outward and let his fans do the heavy lifting. The sheer noise was only duplicated during his encore.

His willingness to include deep cuts from recent albums (“California,” “Mexicoma”) alongside hits from 20 years ago (“Indian Outlaw,” “Just to See You Smile”) is rare. His set seems dictated by what he wants to play, not what fans are expecting to hear — although in most cases, there’s overlap. Yes, he played “Real Good Man,” but he also chose “One of Those Nights” for this WE Fest-wrapping set, and frankly, the song sounded much better than it ever did on the radio. His talented band doesn’t spend much time in the spotlight, but the double guitar solos that closed the song were an exciting spotlight.

If any other artist postured like McGraw he’d be ridiculed, but his poses add drama. Backlit with his back to the audience, he freezes with his arms out. Later he’ll crouch with head tilted low, a dark brim shielding his eyes from the jumbotron cameras. This is his vintage look — if one were to make a logo of the man in the black hat, it’d be this outline.

Fans got close to the singer during “Just to See You Smile” and “Mexicoma” (McGraw smiled as girls on the side-stage rubbed his muscles), but few felt very far from the singer at any point in the show. A set of recent hits closed his set, but few believed he wouldn’t return after singing “How I’ll Always Be” and “Humble and Kind.” He didn’t even say “Goodnight!”

For an encore, McGraw started with “Truck Yeah” and then played “Something Like That.” In 2015 both of these songs could be found earlier in the set, but he wisely swapped out “Mexicoma” as his lead-in encore song for the one most in attendance bought tickets to see. “Live Like You Were Dying” was special. Prior to the show McGraw told Taste of Country that every night he spots someone in the audience needing the song like he did over a decade ago. The sheer power of fan vocals from the furthest beer tent to the closest blue chair in the VIP area was indication that there were thousands of those somebodies in Detroit Lakes, Minn. on Saturday. With all respect to the other headliners, McGraw’s was the show these fans came to see.

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