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Nation Thunder overview: Saturday's predictable and pleasing sampling of mainstream nation is simply what the viewers ordered

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“My title is Tim, in case you didn’t know,” stated Tim McGraw with a sly smile on Saturday night time to an adoring viewers at Fort Calgary.

After all we knew.  But it surely was a becoming greeting for the famous person, who then launched right into a headlining set at Nation Thunder that was heavy on simple allure and Nashville polish. It didn’t take lengthy into Day 2 of the mainstream nation competition to comprehend that good-ole-boy familiarity was the principle thrust in programming this 12 months, because it has been for the reason that occasion started. Whereas it’s formally a “competition,” it has not one of the sense of journey, discovery or range that fuels The Calgary Folks Music Pageant, Sled Island or the sadly missed White Reduce Weekend. Saturday’s lineup in all probability provided the least shocking eight hours of music within the metropolis this 12 months, working with the identical sense of promoting savvy and aversion to style outliers that guides Nashville and mainstream nation basically.

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However, hey, advertising savvy is advertising savvy and the parents behind Nation Thunder proved as soon as once more that they know how you can zero in on their viewers’s tastes with a lineup that explored little of nation music’s completely different shades however provided loads of sing-a-long moments.

Tim McGraw
Nation music artist Tim McGraw headlines day two of the 2023 Nation Thunder Music Pageant at Fort Calgary Saturday, August 19, 2023. Dean Pilling/Postmedia Calgary Dean Pilling/Postmedia

Saturday’s festivities adopted a cold opening night time on Friday that featured headliner Jon Pardi. Sunday will characteristic Keith City and Carly Pearce. Saturday had McGraw sharing the principle stage  with Kip Moore and Jo Dee Messina, but in addition made method for newer acts corresponding to Nashville’s Shane Profitt and Chase Matthew and Airdrie’s Flaysher.

Led by native siblings Brad and Ryan Flaysher, the latter had the never-easy process of opening up the principle stage Saturday afternoon and had been clearly eager on benefiting from expertise. They gained the chance by inserting first in a contest at Ranchman’s. The band performed with power and polish, persevering by means of the same old out-of-the-gate sound gremlins. Nonetheless, it was a bit curious that they relied so closely on cowl materials, which included runs by means of Billy Currington’s We Are Tonight. Paul Brandt’s Alberta Certain, Hinder’s Lips of An Angel, Bon Jovi’s Wished Lifeless or Alive and even Bruno Mars Uptown Funk.  Whether or not the band was directed to do that by the competition or just needed to supply the viewers acquainted bar-band fare they might sing alongside to is  unclear. However for an act that has produced crowd-pleasing originals such because the charging Smoke Indicators and catchy Flat Broke Well-known, it appeared like a little bit of an pointless crutch.

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Each Profitt and Matthew have fascinating backstories that will really be extra intriguing than the music they’ve produced to this point. Profitt was found by Chris Jansen and his supervisor spouse when he ran into them at a Nashville sushi restaurant and requested if he may ship them some demos. It led to a gap spot on Jansen’s tour and publishing deal. On Saturday, he provided a set that featured self-congratulatory redneck anthems and compulsory shoutouts to God, small-towns, pickup vehicles and chilly beer amid the final celebrations of workin’, drinkin’, fishin’, lovin’ and lovin’ the place you’re livin’. (particularly if it’s in a small city.)

He padded it out with an prolonged run by means of Hank Williams Jr’s Household Custom and even longer let-me-introduce-the-band section.

Matthew’s backstory apparently includes transient homelessness and precarious dabblings in medicine and hip-hop. He lunged across the stage like a rapper with an endearing eager-to-please exuberance that often bordered on the manic. He padded out his set with covers of songs by Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line. Yep, even the selection of canopy materials is predictable at Nation Thunder.

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Backed by a first-rate six-piece band and a long time of fabric to attract from, nation veteran Jo Dee Messina’s provided an entertaining and energetic set. Messina’s powerhouse voice is equally well-suited for salty anthems of defiance corresponding to opener My Give a Rattling’s Busted and Lesson in Leavin’ as it’s for beautiful ballads corresponding to Convey on the Rain. She even managed to insert some righteous thunder into Anne Wilson’s treacly modern Christian tune My Jesus. Her band had been equally adept at mid-tempo nation rockers corresponding to her early hit Heads Carolina, Tails Nation as they had been at offering the organ thrives and guitar-riff flurries of the outdated Kansas classic-rock chestnut Stick with it My Wayward Son.

Chase Matthew
Nation music artist Chase Matthew performs on the 2023 Nation Thunder Music Pageant at Fort Calgary Saturday, August 19, 2023. Dean Pilling/Postmedia Calgary Dean Pilling/Postmedia

Kip Moore confirmed depth proper from the get go along with brooding, mid-tempo rockers corresponding to Rattling Love and Peace and Love. His band added hints of Texas swing amid the guitar crunch of the wonderful Tennessee Boy, whereas viewers eagerly sang alongside to the joyful Beer Cash and the hovering anthem Purple White Blue Jean American Dream. Moore’s gritty vocals shone on the moody, Springsteen-esque ballad Hey Fairly Lady and the band generated some real warmth, notably on The Bull. Moore’s efficiency had a pleasant circulation from intense and aloof to wild and open, climaxing with a heartfelt shoutout to Canadians earlier than providing a hovering guitar-duel exercise on the fiery Final Shot.

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Which solely left McGraw, whose showman-like allure and craft makes him considerably review-proof. Beginning with the sly How Dangerous Do You Need It and an additional playful One thing Like That, the setlist hardly ever provided tunes that accelerated previous an amiable, mid-tempo shuffle even when the eight-piece band seemed to be going for broke. But it surely’s exhausting to argue with melodic gems corresponding to Simply to See You Smile and The place the Inexperienced Grass Grows. He additionally launched some promising new materials, notably the deceptively sweet-sounding Hey Whisky. It appeared to assist make his handful of surging, guitar-fuelled hits corresponding to Truck Yeah and I Like It, I Love It all of the extra climactic. However McGraw really returned to the stage with a satisfying encore that started with a stately run by means of The Cowboy In Me and completed the night time with a candy run by means of Humble and Form, which got here full with a video that appeared to evangelise inclusivity. It despatched the boisterous viewers dwelling on a refreshingly mild be aware.

Nation Thunder continues Sunday at Fort Calgary.

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