McGraw, Black Eyed Peas kick off 2009 NFL season at Point State Park


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After winning the Super Bowl in 2006, the Steelers kicked off the next season at Heinz Field by beating the playoff-hopeful Miami Dolphins. (The Dolphins went on be 6-10 and the Steelers 8-8, but that's neither here nor there).

That September night, Rascal Flatts and Martina McBride performed for the crowd at Heinz Field, and the rest of Pittsburgh was treated to a concert by Diddy and other hip-hop acts live from ... South Beach Miami.

In other words, you had to be at the game for the music, or catch a snippet of it on TV. This time, we have it all -- the country music and the boom boom pow.

Tomorrow, the unlikely combo of Tim McGraw and the Black Eyed Peas will share a stage at Point State Park for a free pregame concert prior to the season kickoff between the Super Bowl champs and the Tennessee Titans, members of whom saw fit to stomp on the Terrible Towel last season.


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"We felt that it made a lot of sense just to put everything in one location," says Charles Coplin, VP of programming for NFL Network, who also coordinates the Kickoff and Super Bowl halftime shows. "We're celebrating in the city of Pittsburgh because the premise behind Kickoff is to allow the champions to host a game in their city and have a big party."

McGraw and the Peas turn out to be a good pairing for Pittsburgh, if for no other reason than the Peas haven't been here in six years and McGraw's last local show was July 2008.

McGraw, who has scored more than 20 Billboard country hits, has a new album, "Southern Voice," coming Oct. 20, with a leadoff single, "It's a Business Doing Pleasure With You," co-written by Chad Kroeger of Nickelback. He's also hip-hop-friendly, having had the smash hit "Over and Over" with Nelly in 2004.

Coplin thinks he's a perfect match for the football crowd.

"He has a very big following. He's a huge football fan. We were just lucky enough that he wanted to do it. He's been in a couple football movies. He was in 'Friday Night Lights.' He's going to be in a movie called 'The Blind Side' [about a college football player]. He seemed like a no-brainer choice."

The Black Eyed Peas have huge upside, as they say in the game, being fun, lively and recently breaking a Billboard record by dominating the top of the singles charts for 22 consecutive weeks between "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling."

"They were with us at the Super Bowl in Jacksonville," Coplin says. "The thing we like about the Peas is they're hugely popular, and they appeal in a lot of ways to a very different audience than Tim McGraw appeals to, so we try to cast a wide demographic net. And that's not to say that people watching the show won't like both of them, but clearly they have different fan bases, so, much like they are to the game, they are complementary to each other."

Coplin was brought in to handle the Super Bowl halftime in the wake of the disastrous Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction in 2004, and has since righted the ship with a run of Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. (The 2010 artist will be announced in the next month or so, and among those most talked about have been The Who, Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi and Coldplay.)

The past five years have been a blessing for classic rock fans. The only grumbling you hear is from the few people saying those classic rockers are dinosaurs.

"It's going to be hard to select anything in life that everybody wants," Coplin says. "We've tended to utilize artists that have a tremendous collection of songs because we believe the more people are familiar with the songs, the more people will enjoy the show. Some of the younger artists, and there are exceptions to that rule, just don't have the same body of work that will contribute to the widest number of people enjoying the show."

Gates open at Point State Park at 4 p.m. for video and pre-show entertainment. Tim McGraw and The Black Eyed Peas will perform around 5 p.m. until sometime before 8 p.m. and then will each perform live during the pre-game show airing on NBC and NFL Network.


Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.


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