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Married country superstars share musical love on stage

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and at Bell MTS Place Wednesday evening.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and at Bell MTS Place Wednesday evening.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/6/2017 (525 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For more than 20 years, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have held down the title of country music’s most powerful couple.

The pair of singers — who were married in 1996 — have sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide combined, racked up dozens of awards from Grammys to Billboard Awards to Academy of Country Music Awards and beyond, and, 10 years after its run, their Soul2Soul II tour remains the highest grossing multi-year North American tour in country music history.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of that astoundingly successful tour, the couple are on the road for a 65-city Soul2Soul world tour, which rolled into Bell MTS Place Wednesday night.

Continuing the recent trend of country performers starting their show with songs that are not their own, Sister Sledge’s We Are Family blasted as two empty chairs were spotlighted on stage underneath countdown clocks. Then, once Hill and McGraw popped up on stage after some fancy video work on sheer screens that formed a triangle on the hour-glass shaped stage, they lead off with a cover of I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, originally sung by Aretha Franklin. It was an odd start, though the opening vocal performance from Hill especially was something to behold.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/6/2017 (525 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For more than 20 years, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have held down the title of country music’s most powerful couple. 

The pair of singers — who were married in 1996 — have sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide combined, racked up dozens of awards from Grammys to Billboard Awards to Academy of Country Music Awards and beyond, and, 10 years after its run, their Soul2Soul II tour remains the highest grossing multi-year North American tour in country music history.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of that astoundingly successful tour, the couple are on the road for a 65-city Soul2Soul world tour, which rolled into Bell MTS Place Wednesday night. 

Continuing the recent trend of country performers starting their show with songs that are not their own, Sister Sledge’s We Are Family blasted as two empty chairs were spotlighted on stage underneath countdown clocks. Then, once Hill and McGraw popped up on stage after some fancy video work on sheer screens that formed a triangle on the hour-glass shaped stage, they lead off with a cover of I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, originally sung by Aretha Franklin. It was an odd start, though the opening vocal performance from Hill especially was something to behold. 

After knocking out the first two tracks as full duets, McGraw and Hill took turns acting as backing vocalists for each others songs, and then it was Hill’s turn to take the stage solo, bouncing and bopping around to one of her many hit singles, The Way You Love Me. 

The pair then debuted Break First, a song from their upcoming album of duets; it’s an emotional track about reaching a crossroads and the ability to offer forgiveness. 

A brief chatter break gave McGraw and Hill some time to personalize the show a bit, which was a welcome reprieve from the swiftness in which they plowed through the first seven or eight songs. 

As they worked the stage, the only word to describe the pair of performers is cute. Their interactions with each other — be it McGraw sliding his hand around Hill’s waist or the cheeky grin she would send his way every now and then — felt genuine and sweet, and their crowd banter was almost certainly unrehearsed. 

"Don’t ask for applause, that’s not cool!" Hill joked, before describing her hubby as one of the greatest performers in the business. McGraw took the opportunity to tell a funny story about texting his uncle a photo of Shaw Park and his uncle responding with memories of playing in Winnipeg back in the ’70s.

Mid-show, both Hill and McGraw performed a solo set of around five songs each.

Hill is a stunning live performer and her talent is simply undeniable. Backed by their amazing 10-plus piece band, her set included fan favourite This Kiss as well as one of her biggest singles to date, Breathe

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw
Photos by: Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press

She lost the words at the beginning of the song, but, laughing, said she was having a "déjá vu moment" of a past performance here. Hill recovered, though, and powered her way through the rest of the pop-country ballad, her vocals only improving as the chorus hit its peak epicness. 

In comparison, McGraw felt a bit clunky at times throughout the night, but his solo set was a strong moment for him as well.

Starting with the ballad Angry All The Time (during which Hill sat in back and accompanied him on acoustic guitar) and One Of Those Nights, McGraw put his vocal chops on display, too; he’s consistently strong whether screaming at the top of his lungs or singing a cappella with some of his band members. 

After an immense amount of fist-pumping by McGraw, Hill returned to the stage to start off their new single, Speak to a Girl, a song all about respecting the women in your life. "Young men, pay attention to the lyrics in that song, and young women, expect it!" shouted McGraw after they had finished. 

The main set wrapped up with Mississippi Girl and Something Like That— during which Hill and McGraw took turns meandering around the floor, shaking any outstretched hand in their path.

A standing ovation lead to a one-song encore of the power-balled duet, I Need You. The pair sat in chairs, knee to knee, on a raised triangular platform, singing into a single microphone. It was subdued, yet stunning, way to end the night.

On this particular night (and despite a 10-year absence from touring), Hill outshone her husband, but the show as a whole was exactly what you’d expect from two veteran performers; well-balanced, well-paced and well-executed. 

Minnesota-native Caitlyn Smith opened the night. Alone on stage with just her electric guitar, Smith belted and chatted her way through a 25-minute set, charming the pants off the audience with her storytelling both in and outside of her songs. Smith has co-written with some of the biggest names in country music, including Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton, and it’s easy to see why they would be attracted to her work; there a classic country feel to both her melodic sensibilities and the aching emotion poured into every lyric. 

While Smith had no trouble filling the arena with her booming voice, it did feel strained at times, like she was pushing just a bit too hard. A smaller venue such as the Burton Cummings Theatre — where the natural warmth and roundness of her tone could more easily shine through — would enhance her already strong performance. 

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca 

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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History

Updated on Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 9:49 AM CDT: Corrects reference from dad to uncle.

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