TAMPA — Kenny Chesney called Tim McGraw "the brother I never had." McGraw nodded his shiny black cowboy hat at his wee pal and said touring with Kenny, well, "it doesn't get much bigger than this."
Oh, it was mushy, and it was sweet. And the women at the packed news conference at Raymond James Stadium on Friday swooned at the good-lookin' fellas, who kick off their Brothers of the Sun tour tonight at the venue.
"Tim is more than a friend," Chesney, in T-shirt and baseball hat, added with great gooey sincerity. "He's family."
Yikes. Enough of that. Among the squished throngs from E! and CNN and myriad local newspapers and TV stations, I asked the country stars if they're competitive onstage.
Chesney's eyes bulged. "We're competitive offstage!"
"We're competitive everywhere!" McGraw laughed.
Doing a show "is the same as playing basketball backstage," Chesney added, a reference to their infamous pickup games. "Tim and I are similar in a lot of ways. We've got that competitive nature. That's what's going to make this show stand apart."
Chesney, 44, is the headliner; he's the reason last year's show here drew 50,000. But that doesn't mean the 45-year-old McGraw, who has seen his fame eclipsed by Chesney's, has to like it. He says that desire to out-play the other leaves fans as "the winners."
All in all, this was a polite news conference. No one mentioned the "horse incident" of 2000, when Chesney trotted off on a police horse and McGraw threw a block on deputies. No one asked opener Jake Owen, looking like bored furniture next to the two Nashville icons, about his recent alcohol-related incident at a Vero Beach Steak 'n Shake.
But the presser wasn't without some fun.
There are logistical reasons why Tampa is the tour's launch city, but Chesney, who's made millions off his beach-bum persona, played along: "I wanted to start the tour off where there was an actual pirate ship in the stadium."
Looking Hollwood handsome, and Beverly Hills thin, McGraw zipped some zingers. When asked about the 80 tractor trailers needed for the tour, he quipped: "That's just for Kenny's merch." And when someone wondered about McGraw's dreams of crossover success, he smirked: "I couldn't go pop with an a-- full of firecrackers."
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