LAS VEGAS -- The new
The implicit gag is that both
But there is plenty more to give them credit for and, whether or not Hank Williams would have done it this exact way, he might have as good a time as anybody watching a 90-minute show that's tightly choreographed yet offers at least the illusion of voyeurism when it comes to country music's first couple. Seeing the equal partnership between these two, he might even wish he'd made Audrey Williams a full-on duet partner. Or maybe, prompted by the sensual sizzle of the onstage coupling, he and Audrey would just want to get a room.
The room Tim and Faith have gotten for themselves is frequently described as an "intimate" one. And although 1,800 seats ain't exactly the Bluebird Café in Nashville, it does feel pleasingly small scale compared to the arenas either or both of them have been playing for as long as anyone can remember. Compared to the 4,300-seater
It might be the only superstar show you see for the rest of your life where there is no camerawork projecting the stars' visages onto giant overhead screens. There are some giant abstract backdrops in the glamorous set, to be sure, but not too much in the way of overt Vegas stagecraft. When Tim and Faith put their hands on each other's knees as they sit and sing to each other in the climactic number,
Does it feel intimate, though? That's a question patrons may find themselves going either way on. Although the venue size and staging are scaled down, the volume only intermittently is. Reviewing the show for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Mike Weatherford was complimentary but said the show "plays like a big arena concert that happens to be in a small theater. Is that any bad thing? Not if you are down there on the floor when they come walking past you in the aisle. It's like everyone who tried to buy tickets for one of their arena shows got through in the first few minutes and ended up in the first fourth of their local enormo-dome."
Weatherford said that compared to the truly downsized engagement
The Review's writer has a point, though we'd argue that the moments where McGraw and Hill really click together onstage constitute much more than a "nice try" and that there's no shame for them in trying to have it both ways, even if the balance doesn't come out exactly right on the scale of bombast versus get-to-know-us moments.
After that opening bit of Waylon irony, the show properly gets underway with the two entering from opposite sides of the orchestra section dueting on the most obscure song either of them will do during the evening -- "Let's Go to Vegas," a little-revived but obviously relevant barnburner from Hill's second album. If this galvanizing opener does not put the "viva" in your Las Vegas trip, you have come to the wrong show from the get-go. Having finally made their way to the stage after liberal amounts of front-section gladhanding, they follow that up with
After that, there is the previously mentioned "tag team" approach, interrupted with occasional pairings, and if you had been led to think they'd be hanging out with each other on the non-duets, you were mistaken. McGraw disappears while she sings "This Kiss," much as you might want to see the titular kiss illustrated, and then Hill is absent for
But once it settles in that this is going to be a mashed-up version of one of their Soul2Soul arena shows, as opposed to the successive-sets version seen in previous joint tours, you can appreciate how fast-moving and moment-to-moment unpredictable the set is. And there is definitely a sense of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. When Hill sings
They do have their individual highlights. For him, there's the aforementioned "Felt Good on My Lips," which graduates from indie-rock riffing to arena-rock anthem and has McGraw going into and working the crowd as if there really were 18,000 of them there instead of a 10th that number. And on this particular Saturday night, at least, he sang
For Hill, the solo highlight was not the new
In a measure of how carefully chosen the set list was, "Cry" led into the similarly themed duet
For sheer fun, though, the high-spirited peak had to be the midset respite when the two took time out to sit down and chat informally in front of the crowd. When Hill and McGraw held a press conference in August on this same stage, there was some chatter among the press that their conversational chemistry in that setting might be more entertaining than the eventual show. Wisely, they've gone and pretty much made a pressless press conference the centerpiece of their show. It's a little bit of a forced conceit, as it now stands, but the nice part is, it apparently isn't 100 percent scripted.
Reports from Friday night's premiere gig had Hill aghast in this segment that her husband, for all the beautiful tailoring of his suit, was not wearing socks. At the Saturday gig to which press were invited, McGraw remarked upon the loveliness of his wife's dress, then adding, "It'll look good on the floor, too."
There were some non-randy asides, like McGraw pointing out that producer Byron Gallimore was in the audience and suggesting that every aspiring singer or songwriter should converge on the poor guy afterward.
There was a bit more happily-wed ribaldry when Hill wondered at a particularly "hot" moment if anything was going on in McGraw's "britches," and he answered, "It was close." The audience would definitely not have minded if there were a lot more of these interchanges during the show -- and especially not have minded if that stretched the set time past 90 minutes, which seems to be the mysterious maximum for any production in Las Vegas.
Following a fun if not-so-impromptu discussion of their musical influences, Hill sang a snippet of a