DEL MAR – The 12-year-old girl seated in the $25 seats raised her hands and formed a heart out of her thumbs and forefingers as Scotty McCreery sang “I Love You This Big.” That’s about all you need to know about McCreery’s popularity just 13 months after he was anointed as the 10th American Idol.

McCreery & band performed a 16-song set (including a pair of encore songs) at the San Diego County Fair on Tuesday night.  The crowd was mixed, a majority country fans (for obvious reasons) but a surprisingly large number of seemingly Idol fans who showed up just to see what had evolved out of the 18-year-old North Carolina kid they had watched and then voted for a year ago.

And what McCreery showed them was a rapidly maturing showman. No doubt he has taken the advice of a lot of country stars he has run across since his Idol days and he’s learned how to perform on the concert stage. This is definitely not the “kid” we all saw on Idol. And he’s not the performer that former Idol judge Simon Cowell poked fun at with a dirisive comment about McCreery’s song “I Love You This Big.”

McCreery, who admitted Tuesday night that the last time he was in San Diego was when he was 3-years-old and that he flew in that morning and was leaving Wednesday, opened the show with “Walk In The Country” and ended it with “Gone.”  In between it was all country and although he didn’t hit every note perfectly and he dropped the microphone once, he is on the fast track to perfecting a trade that some artists never learn.

Country artists are indeed “different” than other genres.  If you are not a true fan of the music then you almost have to be won over by some other means. And Scotty has a knack for doing that.  The smile, the down-home feeling you get from his music, the simplicity of it all … there is just something about the kid that tells you to invite him over for a cup of coffee or better yet a glass of sweet tea. There is simply nothing pretentious about Scotty McCreery.

It’s hard to find the correct grade for the concert, but for now give him a solid “B” since there is room for improvement.

If you missed the show you’ll get a couple more chances to see him in California this summer when he appears at the Orange County Fair in Costsa Mesa (July 18) and the California State Fair in Sacramento (July 21st).

Following is McCreery’s play list from Tuesday night:

1 – Walk In The Country

2 – You Make That Look Good

3 – I Love You This Big

4 – Check Yes Or No

5 – Write My Number On Your Hand

6 – Out Of Summertime

7 – Dirty Dishes

8 – (I Am A Man Of) Contstant Sorrow

9 – Better Than That

10 – The Dance

11 – The Trouble With Girls

12 – Water Tower Town

13 – That’s All Right

14 – Trouble

15 – Letters From Home

16 – Gone