Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Tim McGraw entertained 12,000 fans at Canadian Tire Centre

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Losing the venue wouldn’t be good news for the many small businesses in Kanata that get a boost from event traffic

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Country superstar Tim McGraw rolled into Canadian Tire Centre on Friday, entertaining a near-sellout crowd with a slick and upbeat show that also demonstrated the viability of the Kanata hockey arena as a concert venue — even if the Senators build a new home downtown.

Introducing himself simply as “Tim,” and quipping that he’s better known as “Faith’s husband,” McGraw was the good-natured host of a multi-generational shindig that attracted close to 12,000 fans from across the region, from the Kemptville mother-and-daughter pair sitting behind me, who were on a pre-Mother’s Day outing, to the boisterous group of Eastern Ontario lads singing a McGraw ballad at the top of their lungs in the concourse while waiting in the beer line. 

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“I’ve been listening to Tim McGraw since 27 years ago,” said one of the plaid-shirted singers during a break in the impromptu performance, “and I’m 26.” 

“Since before he came outta the womb,” a buddy added, explaining, “We’re all good friends loving Tim McGraw and singing it in the alleyway.”

Fans make their way to Canadian Tire Centre for the Tim McGraw concert.
Close to 12,000 people flocked to Canadian Tire Centre for Friday’s concert by country superstar Tim McGraw. Photo by Lynn Saxberg /POSTMEDIA

The exuberance of fans like these lent an energy that ran through the show, and appeared to light up McGraw and his top-notch band. On stage in his tight jeans, black cowboy hat and black V-neck T-shirt, with video footage following every move and projecting it on screen, McGraw cruised through a generous set of rock-powered hits and twangy ballads with a swagger and a big smile, his solid, oaky voice never missing a note. 

The setlist read like a greatest-hits catalogue, kicking off with the party-starter, Truck Yeah, and including essential hits like Just To See You Smile, Shotgun Rider, Red Ragtop, Where The Green Grass Grows and Real Good Man, generating singalongs with almost every chorus. One highlight was a passionate cover of Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, while another crowd-pleasing moment came when fans saw the image of Taylor Swift on screen during Highway Don’t Care, a McGraw song that features the billion-selling music phenom as a guest. 

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At one point, McGraw shared the reason that he doesn’t talk much between songs: “I have a wife and three daughters,” he said, half-joking, then quickly making it clear he’s proud of the women he raised with his country-singing wife of 28 years, Faith Hill. 

“Our job is to leave the rest of the world outside,” he went on to declare. “Cut loose, have fun, enjoy yourself … We’re gonna take you on a ride.”

While that was happening, staff at local businesses braced themselves for the influx of post-concert customers. The most obvious spot to keep the party going was the Crazy Horse Saloon, a western-themed restaurant and watering hole at the Kanata Centrum Shopping Centre, just one Hwy. 417 exit east of Canadian Tire Centre. 

Fans line up at the Crazy Horse after the Tim McGraw concert.
Fans wait in line to get into Kanata’s Crazy Horse Saloon after Friday’s Tim McGraw concert at Canadian Tire Centre. Photo by Lynn Saxberg /POSTMEDIA

As one of the few Kanata establishments that’s open late and features live music, it didn’t take long after the show for a line to form outside the Crazy Horse entrance. Inside, a lively crowd boogied on the dance floor to catchy country hits like Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) before the Ottawa Valley country-rock outfit, the Timber Line, took over and kept the good times going into the wee hours with their mix of classic rock and country tunes.

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Earlier in the day, with the patio open for business on a sunny afternoon, the Crazy Horse was fully booked with pre-show dinner reservations, too, including one group travelling by limousine. 

“People start their fun here, go to the show and then bring it back after the show,” said manager Andrew Lawrie, describing patrons as a mix of Valley residents, city folk and out-of-towners staying in nearby hotels. 

Crazy Horse owner Mike Labreche
Mike ‘Skippy’ Labreche, owner of the Crazy Horse Saloon in Kanata, poses for a photo before a Tim Mcgraw concert at the Canadian Tire Centre Friday. Photo by Tony Caldwell /POSTMEDIA

“We’re busy for any concert, but for country concerts, we’re the go-to place,” added Crazy Horse owner Mike ‘Skippy’ Labreche. Although they’re also busy with hockey-game traffic, he isn’t too concerned about the team’s proposed move to an arena that might be built downtown sometime in the future. 

“Honestly, we don’t even think about it,” Labreche said. “It’s so far down the line, I can’t let it affect our business because we’ll drive ourselves nuts thinking, ‘What if?’”

At the same time, he realizes that losing the venue wouldn’t be good news for the many small businesses in Kanata that get a boost from event traffic. Then again, maybe the Kanata arena would continue to be used for concerts. 

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“Maybe concerts could be just as big as the Sens because there are so many concerts throughout the year,” Labreche speculated. “I guess it all depends on what (the team) would do with that spot after they left.” 

Back in the concourse with the lads who were singing, some of them saw Kanata as a more convenient spot to see a concert. 

“For me, downtown would be more of a pain in the arse, to be honest,” said Connor McLaughlin, a 26-year-old musician who lives in the Finch area. “I can go on the 416, skip all of Ottawa and get up here. I don’t need to go through the city.”

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