Tim McGraw's Saturday night concert full of surprises

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 12:30 a.m.

Surprise formed a major element of Tim McGraw's Saturday night concert at the First Niagara Pavilion, starting with the country star's unexpected entry onto the stage from the audience instead of backstage.

Many lucky fans in the sea of thousands gasped and screamed when they found McGraw walking right past them, giving the audience high fives on his way to the stage.

McGraw performed for nearly two hours, and combined the expected classic hits from the past 20 years with several new songs from the new “Two Lanes of Freedom” album - also the title of this tour that stopped in Burgettstown on May 18.

The audience, not knowing what to expect unless they had the album, got their introduction to several songs that aren't yet singles - including “Southern Girl,” a fun, flirty song that compares the southern belle's kiss to tupelo honey.

The scenery on the giant backing screen evolved throughout the night with the songs. Memorable sights include railroads in the geographically romantic song “Everywhere,” and the heavenly clouds during “Live Like You Were Dying” - probably the biggest McGraw fan favorite of all.

McGraw looked choked up as he sang that sentimental song passionately, and the audience went crazy, singing the first chorus without any vocals from him. So long as we clarify that McGraw performed with the intensity of an artist giving his all, rather than morbidly and weakly, McGraw performed like he were dying during that song.

McGraw - clad in his signature black cowboy hat, along with tight jeans and a gray tank top - entertained us with lively moves during the show's faster and lighter songs. At times, he leapt up and down like he was jumping on a trampoline, and some band members joined the jumping.

McGraw performed the current hit “Highway Don't Care” - a duet with Taylor Swift, and guitar from Keith Urban - and brought the other two artists to the songs visually with backing video clips showing them doing their parts on the song's video.

Except for the timing of Swift's voice dub not exactly matching her video movements, this effect gave us the next best thing to actually having Urban and Swift there.

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