(As published in the Times of Acadiana ... )
The Gig: Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
8:00 P.M. Sunday, July 23
The Cajundome, Lafayette
Although the idea of getting Tim McGraw and Faith Hill together for a tour seems obvious now that someone’s thought of it, most previous husband-wife tours have portended divorces so messy or career downturns so drastic that even the most economically ambitious promoter might wonder whether marriage and music performed before huge crowds simply shouldn’t mix.
Sonny and Cher, Delaney and Bonnie, James and Carly, Ike and Tina, George and Tammy, Whitney and Bobby, Amy and Gary, both halves of Abba--the carnage of broken wedding vows polluting the pop-music waters is so great that not all the hits of Steve and Eydie could turn them blue again.
The good news for McGraw-Hill fans is that McGraw and Hill differ from most of the aforementioned acts in two important ways. First, by being individual superstars and not a superstar duo, they avoid putting both their egos in one basket. Second, unlike such previous superstar non-duos as James and Carly and George and Tammy, neither McGraw nor Hill is a spouse-battering, drug-abusing boozer with delusions about the greenness of the grass across the way.
Each is, in fact, nearly saintly: the Faith Hill Family Literacy Project, although probably longer on good intentions than measurable effects, is hardly a road to hell, and McGraw’s recent designation by the National Fatherhood Initiative as Father of the Year is a real cockles-warmer. “My daughters Gracie and Maggie are my North Star,” he said in accepting the award. “They, along with my wife Faith, give my life focus. Loving them, keeping them safe in my arms has made me rich in a way no sold-out tour or platinum album ever could.”
Both McGraw and Hill know a lot about platinum albums. Between them they have nine so far, and because there’s no reason to expect Nashville’s finest songwriters to quit supplying them with number-one singles, the total will almost certainly grow. Of the two, McGraw has the more countrified voice (and music), but each, by selecting material as carefully as such celebrated non-writers as Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra used to, has established a certifiably countrified image.
In two songs on A Place in the Sun (Curb), for instance, the thirty-three-year-old, Louisiana-born McGraw extols the joys of being seventeen, and in another (“My Next Thirty Years”) he promises to watch what he eats and drinks now that his youthful metabolism has slowed to a canter. Rock-and-rollers hold on to sixteen (cf. John Cougar), not seventeen. And to vow to count one’s calories is to make that most un-rock-and-roll of admissions: that time is not on one’s side. For these and other reasons--not the least of which is that he wears a cowboy hat--McGraw is at least as country as his timmcgraw.com website is high-tech.
True, his recent victory in Quepasa.com’s “Who is the most desirable man in music?” on-line contest wasn’t very cowboy. (Could Waylon and Willie and the boys ever have convinced a majority of women that they were “more desirable” than Ricky Martin, Alejandro Fernandez, Carlos Ponce, or Rob Thomas--the losers whose relatively less-desirable butts McGraw whupped?)
But these are different times, and McGraw--well, let’s see what the voters themselves had to say: “I think it’s great that Tim won!” wrote one. “He is an all around sexy guy! Not only are his looks 100% perfect but his personality is great and he is a great husband and father! I think anyone putting Tim down is jealous! They wish they could be as great as him! He was the sexiest man nominated! Tim is a great role model to everyone! Even the Pope! That man is one FINE man!!” (She didn’t really write “even the Pope,” but I’m pretty sure she meant to.)
Of course, Faith Hill qualifies as pretty desirable herself. Earlier this year, Country Weekly placed her atop its “Top Twenty-Five Sexiest Stars” list, and teenage boys aren’t hiding the CD booklet of her latest album, Breathe (Warner Bros.), under their mattresses for nothing. Still, as those who witnessed her performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl know, her voice is the real reason that she’s reached the pinnacle of her profession.
She also must be a real God-bless-the-U.S.A. kind of patriot to have been able to sing the National Anthem with that much lung power, not to mention a real ACLU-baiting Believer to have included “There Will Come a Day” (which goes, “Every knee will bow / Sin will have no trace / In the glory of His amazing grace”) on an album that she knew darn well would be listened to by kids who attend public schools.
God, country, literacy, parenthood, desirability--and, oh yes, the chart-toppingest country music of the new millennium so far--the McGraw-Hill Tour has it all.
Ignore it at your own risk.