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Concert Reviews:
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are proud -- and loud -- at The Palace

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Saturday, September 9, 2017

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AUBURN HILLS -- There's no doubt that Tim McGraw and Faith Hill are a powerhouse tandem, as a couple and as a couple of country music superstars.

Power, however, was exactly what plowed under their Soul2Soul: The World Tour concert on Friday night, Sept. 8, at The Palace.

The two singers, married nearly 21 years and with three daughters, have both played a role in helping country cross over into mainstream appeal. On Friday, however, their visually spectacular two-hour, 26-song show too often steered in more of a metal direction, and not to the benefit of the music or the fans.

If you ever wondered what Erma Franklin's "Piece Of My Heart" might sound like played by, oh, Black Sabbath, Hill provided the answer with her version of the song. Her own hits "Free" and "This Kiss" and McGraw's "Real Good Man" was also treated to headbanging arrangements, while a generally bottom-heavy, unnecessarily loud sound mix was a burden all night, shaking the arena and swallowing up the instrumental subtleties and making Hill in particular sound strained and even a bit distorted as the duo's vocals were pushed above the sonic din.

The shame, of course, was that on paper it should have been an entirely stellar evening. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first Soul2Soul Tour -- when a newcomer named Taylor Swift was the opening act -- McGraw and Hill, who both turned 50 this year, performed together and apart, covering some of their biggest hits and including the brand new "Break First" and "Speak To A Girl" from their upcoming duets album. A series of delicate, translucent scrims lifted as McGraw and Hill emerged from below the stage (shaped like the intersecting triangles of the tour logo) to start an eight-song duet set with the Aretha Franklin-George Michael hit "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)." "Felt Good On My Lips" found McGraw on his knees as Hill belted the song into his face, and the couple didn't let the musical pedal up until "Like We Never Loved At All" -- and even then the volume made it sound more like an anthem than a ballad.

McGraw's solo segment restored a bit of equilibrium with the more measured dynamics of "Angry All The Time," "One Of Those Nights," "Shotgun Rider" and a stripped down bit of "Where The Green Grass Grows," with the 12-piece band joining the singer in a hootenanny-style shuffle. McGraw was also playful, tossing out snippets of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock And Roll," Kiss' "Rock And Roll All Nite" and Kid Rock's "Cowboy" during his set. "I'm not even gonna try Aretha!" he cracked, only to have a backup singer belt out a bit of "Respect."

McGraw and Hill stayed mostly on-script each night amidst the lasers, moving light grid and visuals on a huge rear-stage screen. They noted they were the final country music show at the Palace and spoke a bit about married life; "It's Your Love" featured video screen images of the couple and their children over the years. Surprisingly they made no mention at all of Friday's deaths of country stars Don Williams and Troy Gentry (opening act Brent Cobb did during his set). They each took a turn walking through the crowd late in the show, Hill-- who sported four dresses during the show -- with "Mississippi Girl" and McGraw, flanked by a platoon of security guards, during "Something Like That."

"I Need You," with no live musicians visible on stage, brought the show to a quiet close with McGraw and Hill seated and singing face to face on the same microphone. They bowed and left with nary a word -- which, after the aural cacophony of the previous two hours, was just fine.

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