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Tim Mcgraw Goes Beyond Outlaw Image

Here’s what you want to hear if you shelled out good money for tickets to see Tim McGraw at the Arena Friday night.

Says McGraw, “When you go to a concert, you want to see a show, not hear a CD.”

You can tell that cowboy’s been to a show or two.

McGraw - call him the country star who did an end-run around obscurity - will appear with Faith Hill in yet another in a string of country blockbuster concerts.

And from the reviews that are circulating on the Internet, this is a wild one.

Not to give too much away, but McGraw apparently defies gravity, gets a hand from Mother Nature and performs a deft cheerleader’s role. In one recent show, he even covered a popular Steve Miller Band tune, but we’ll let that one be a surprise.

The fact that McGraw’s career has reached headlining heights is a big league feat in its own right. In 1993, his debut LP, “Tim McGraw,” charted three singles, but stiffed so badly at the sales counters that McGraw himself claims it “went wood” rather than gold or platinum.

His career was going largely unnoticed until 1994 when he cut “Not A Moment Too Soon,” an LP that contained a little novelty tune called “Indian Outlaw.”

“Indian Outlaw” got McGraw pegged as another one-hit novelty act in the Billy Ray Cyrus vein, but it banged its way to No. 8 on the country music chart and accomplished for McGraw what peeing on a gas station wall did for the Rolling Stones - it earned him some much-needed notoriety.

Native American groups protested the song and caused enough ruckus to get the tune yanked from a handful of powerful stations. It was enough to send McGraw’s stock soaring. The next three singles from “Not A Moment Too Soon” went straight to No. 1 and the album wound up selling more than 4 million copies.

“After ‘Indian Outlaw,’ I wasn’t taken as seriously as I wanted to be,” McGraw told Entertainment Weekly. “It never feels good when somebody writes you off as a whim or a fad. The reaction challenged me to prove I was serious about being an artist.”

McGraw put a lot of pressure on himself when he went into the studio last year to cut his third record, “All I Want.”

He needn’t have worried. The first single, “I Like It, I Love It,” debuted at No. 50 last August on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart and went to No. 1. The next single, “Can’t Really Be Gone,” followed it to the top.

His current hit, “All I Want Is A Life,” is No. 5.

“I can breathe now,” McGraw said last summer when “I Like It, I Love It” got off to a good start. “There was a collective sigh of relief. I felt like it would be a good record. It was a cool, fun, back-to-school song.”

And although McGraw has added romantic ballads to his lighthearted repertoire, he sees himself as a guy who knows how to show an audience a good time.

“The vibe is feel-good - I think Sawyer Brown and Hootie (and the Blowfish) have the same attitude. They’re happy.”

There was never any doubt about Faith Hill’s future - her 1993 debut, “Take Me As I Am,” sold platinum (1 million copies) and spawned three No. 1 singles right out of the box.

A former gospel-choir singer, Hill is hot property - hot enough to make People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People list last year.

She got her start in Nashville selling T-shirts at the Country Music Fan Fair, but it wasn’t all that long before she had a deal with Warner Brothers and a platinum LP.

Hill’s current album, “It Matters To Me,” is No. 10 on the country chart, and the single “Someone Else’s Dream” is No. 9.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos