The country power couple performed at Barclay’s Center over the weekend
When one thinks of a country music concert, one does not usually think about symbols, motifs, and themes: things usual present in a theatrical play or musical. However, Friday night, (Oct 27th) that is exactly what the audience at Barclay’s Center experienced when Tim McGraw and Faith Hill performed the last show of their Soul2Soul: The World Tour to Brooklyn.
Beginning with two chairs on stage, boxes slowly rose out of the ground during the opening (really an overture) before Hill and McGraw rose out of those spots and began the show. They powered through early hits as a couple, with McGraw singing a shorted renditions of songs like “I Like It, I Love It,” and Hill racing through uptempo numbers like “The Lucky One.”
McGraw and Hill’s first Soul2Soul tour in 2000 was widely well received, while the 2006-2007 iteration became the highest-grossing country music tour of all time. Initially famous in their own right, the couple have turned their undying love into a global powerhouse brand-to this cynic, conspicuously so. However, it is impossible to say they were “putting it on” for the 20,000 people. They truly seem to love, respect, and cherish each other’s talents and humanity.
If there is one criticism all three outings of this tour have had to deal with, it’s that Hill performs her solo set first, making her a defacto “opener” for McGraw, regardless of the fact that they kick off the show together. Critics argue that McGraw gets the bigger response. That is absolutely not true for the Barclay’s Center show. An equal display of love for both stars present throughout the night.
The stage, shaped like the tour’s logo, was trimmed with screens, while an 80 ft. back wall offered projections, home videos and candid photos, and occasionally larger-than-life shots of the stage action, filtered through funky effects. There were multiple trap doors for fog machines and other effects. And, arguably be coolest effect of the night were the sheer scrims that could raise, lower, and roll up and down, adding a height to the stage that perfectly complimented the Barclay’s Center’s tall ceiling.
The music was perfectly timed and paced, with just the right accents from the high-tech stage. A triangular section lifted Faith Hill of the ground just enough so that fog could set set the mood for “Breathe.” An aggressive laser show accompanied “Free,” while Tim McGraw returned via the floor portal for “Angry All the Time.” There were 27 songs performed in all thanks to the aforementioned jam-packed opening, which saw the duo alternate or duet for 12 songs. However, during the “main sets,” each artist sang less than ten numbers (Hill performed six, McGraw offered seven).
During the encore, each star performed one number entirely in the crowd, circling the floor seats flanked by security and a rope puller to keep the fans from mowing down Hill or McGraw. The former appeared first, singing “Mississippi Girl,” followed immediately by McGraw, entering from one of the upper sections of the house, with “Something Like That.” While the gimmick enthralled fans eager to rub elbows (literally) with the power couple, the complexity of the operation itself distracted from two truly great songs. The rope-puller looked scared of the thousands of country fans she was now charged with corralling, while security added a stone-faced distraction to otherwise cheery songs.
Over the years, McGraw and Hill have found the perfect balance of theatricality and concert showmanship. Early iterations of the tour had the couple begin the show, facing away from each other. They would not come in contact until they returned for final duets after the two main sets. Now, the focus is less on the journey of their love, and how love can be found in their music, and all music. Hill and McGraw still keep hold of these theatrical values, but it no longer gets in the way of the music.
What makes this tour “theatrical” in nature is that every song had an image. Whether it was the bare stage on “Live Like you Were Dying,” or the solar system projected on the scrim for “One of Those Nights,” each song told a story with words, lights, and images. Hill and McGraw sat in front of an old studio microphone, while two triangles performed subtly gorgeous acrobatics above head. It was the most beautiful production number I have ever seen at a country music concert. And did I mention, the couple were sitting on the very same chairs sitting on the stage at the start? In true theatrical fashion, this Soul2Soul concert ended how it began.
The tour will play very select dates overseas in Spring 2018.