It is possible, even in these social networking days of daily Charlie Sheen updates and Justin Bieber hairstyle changes, to be too successful in a field of expertise. At some point, fame, adulation and positive reinforcement can bite back. It happened to Tim McGraw on Monday evening at RodeoHouston.
For the sixth time in the last 16 years McGraw came to RodeoHouston on Monday as one of the biggest draws in country music and an artist who's so accustomed to sitting atop the Billboard country music charts that anything short of a No. 1 hit is viewed as a disappointment.
Eight years ago that kind of track record made him bulletproof when he ignited the stage during RodeoHouston's opening year at Reliant Stadium. Short of Lone Star icon George Strait there was no bigger male solo country than McGraw.
The hits have kept on coming, but something has changed since those halcyon days: Where McGraw once was a leader in forming the future of modern country, these days he seems a little lost as to what direction his music should take. Even worse, for the first time it felt a little past-his-prime when compared to today's country royalty: Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum.
His 70-minute show at Reliant Stadium featured 13 songs, nine of which were past No. 1 hits and all of them a crowd pleaser in their own right. As a whole, however, this tour through 17 years of hits showcases how sporadic McGraw's discography is, even as it makes loyalists shriek.
Opening with "Southern Voice," the top charting country title track from his last studio album demonstrated just how close to the country-rock line McGraw has traveled since early classic country hits like "Don't Take The Girl," and "The Cowboy In Me."
During his early '90s career-building days, McGraw was firmly entrenched in the George Jones-George Strait school of country songwriting. He still relishes those days as stops through heartland thump of "Indian Outlaw" and the pure Tennessee violin and pedal on "Where The Green Grass Grows."
It's when McGraw gets into his new millennium hits that he doesn't seem so confident. "Last Dollar (Fly Away)" sounded more like Journey than country with its screeching electric guitar lead, and his most recent No.1, "Felt Good On My Lips" was a no-holds-barred pop song.
The Monday RodeoHouston crowd ate it up, especially when he spent several songs walked the dirt floor perimeter shaking hands and offering hugs.
McGraw is a showman and a hit machine which made the night worthwhile. But after hearing his career retrospective in played together, it makes me wonder where he goes next as an artist.