King and queen of country, aka McGraw and Hill, hold court
Staples Center, Los Angeles, Oct. 7, 2000
LOS ANGELES - Adults who still believe in fairy tales must have been in perpetual bliss this night in downtown Los Angeles, as the reigning king and queen of modern day country music held court. It mattered not that the story of the emperor's new clothes is best suited to describe this musical event, though, because Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (with their perfect physiques, perfect new children and perfect images) are like a grown up prom couple, living out their dreams in front of the public eye.
Hill's opening set was packed with happily ever after romances for an audience of celluloid dreamers.
Like McGraw, Hill sang exactly 13 songs, beginning with a revved up version of "This Kiss," and concluding to an extended "Breathe."Throughout her portion of the show, Hill sang with the determination of a Type-A personality; like an athlete with her game face on.
Such visible force of will helps explain why Hill was the perfect choice to be a last minute replacement for Whitney Houston at the Academy Awards, since she also sings with the same cold perfection as Mrs. Brown. Heck, she even has Houston's same love for black gospel music, as exemplified by her new tune "There Will Come A Day."
The Houston comparison also helps to describe Hill's evolving musical direction, which has hardly a hint of country left in it. Hill is a computer programmer's dream for the perfect pop diva - all parts, no soul. She smiles on queue, hits all the right notes and fooled this wealthy gathering of concert goers into believing they were actually witnessing real country music. Hill is a talented vocalist, but to award her as the best female country singer (as happened at the recent CMA Awards) is a crime against country music.
McGraw is by far the more human of the two, but his very flesh may end up hindering his musical growth. The females in the audience were simply drooling over him, and this was during the Budweiser commercials shown on venue big screens - before he even took the stage.
They screamed extra loud when he took that stage, though. Then when he took off his jacket to reveal a sleeveless black T-shirt. Then when he laid on his back.
Picking his nose probably would have guaranteed at least a brief standing ovation.
In other words, many mainly came to see the boyish figure with "Faith" tattooed on his right shoulder, rather than listen to music.
Such a hedonistic reaction is a shame, since McGraw has much better taste in songs than does his super model-esque better half. Songs like "Just to See You Smile," with its lightly swinging banjo groove, and the touching "Don't Take the Girl" are simple fine songs.
But his extended jam on Steve Miller's "The Joker" was a complete waste of time, and his new "Things Change" seemingly attempts to put McGraw in the exalted company of Hank Williams, Elvis and outlaws like Nelson and Cash, which is an artistic realm well beyond his limited musical reach.
The couple's head-to-head finale included obligatory renditions of "It's Your Love" and "Let's Make Love," before closing the concert with the odd choice of Fleetwood Mac's "You Can Go Your Own Way," which is one of pop music's angriest break-up songs. Few in this audience picked up on such irony, though, since rose colored glasses never capture much reality.
The evening was opened with a short - but gutsy - set from the Warren Brothers, who kept the crowd's attention with just their two guitars and voices.