You can’t fake true love, not for more than 20 years anyway, and Saturday night at the Sprint Center, one of country music’s most celebrated married couples showed a big crowd what true love looks like.
For more than 90 minutes, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, backed by a large band, serenaded each other and an audience of about 15,000 with a barrage of ballads and anthems – most of them big-time country hits – about love and all its rewards and tribulations. And though the presentation felt a bit contrived and choreographed at times, ultimately they made their point, genuinely: The rewards of a long-term commitment are worth whatever fleeting hardships you endure along the way.
The Soul 2 Soul Tour was split into four acts. The opening set comprised a mix of performances by Hill and McGraw during which, like Sonny and Cher, they playfully showed off the push and pull of their relationship – a marriage that now spans more than 21 years and includes the rearing of three daughters, the youngest of whom is in high school.
They each turned 50 this year (McGraw in May; Hill on Thursday, when the two performed in Wichita); but both have sustained a youthful exuberance, physically and otherwise.
The first set comprised a back-and-forth of duets from each, songs like the cover of “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” and McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It,” which drew a loud reaction for an allusion to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hill essentially has been nearly in abstentia from country music for many years and for no good reason. Her performance Saturday night revived and reaffirmed her status in the mid-1990s and into the millennium, when she was a best-selling superstar, in country music and beyond. She is a gifted vocalist with lots of charisma and a sense of humor, which she flashed during several moments with her husband. (She easily won the stare-down after “Break First,” rendering McGraw into a fit of laughter after a few seconds.)
The production was dazzling, at times to a fault: a blizzard of lasers and lights and other visual distractions, including lots of video footage.
The two have dozens of hits in their arsenal and they unleashed many of them, most of which incited singalongs of various intensities, songs like Hill’s spot-on cover of “Piece of My Heart” plus “Free,” “This Kiss” and “Breathe.”
McGraw countered with powerhouse hits like “Angry All the Time” and “Real Good Man,” songs with roots in rock more than country, and “Live Like You Were Dying,” a ballad inspired by the death of his father, former major-league pitcher Tug McGraw.
The closed the show like they opened it: both on stage singing a mix of each other’s songs, starting with their new single, the cheese-ladened ballad “Talk to a Girl.’ Each took a walk into the fawning crowd during the set, Hill during a robust version of “Mississippi Girl,” McGraw during “Something Like That.”
For the finale, the two love birds serenaded each other with “I Need You,” and though it’s the standard closer on this tour, they sang it looking directly at each other and like they meant every word.
Brandy Clark: She opened the evening with a 40-minute set that showcased her keen songwriting sensibilities, perspectives that don’t always mesh with mainstream Nashville Despite that and the murky sound, she and her two-piece band aroused some warm ovations for songs like “Stripes,”You’re Drunk,” “Love Can Go to Hell,” “Daughter” and “Hold My Hand.”
I Knew You Were Waiting For Me; Felt Good on My Lips; The Lucky One; I Like It, I Love It; The Way You Love Me; Like We Never Loved At All; Break First; Telluride; Free; This Kiss; Breathe; Wild One; Stronger; Piece of My Heart; Angry All the Time; Real Good Man; Where the Green Grass Grows; Shotgun Rider; Humble and Kind; Live Like You Were Dying; Speak to a Girl; It’s Your Love; Mississippi Girl; Something Like That; I Need You.