McGraw, Hill pack kids, dog and hits yet again
by Alison Bonaguro
Special to the Tribune,
(Published July 13, 2007


It's here: The annual Tim McGraw and Faith Hill two-night Chicago stop. If you're going, or thinking about it, here's what you need to know to make the most of the shows.

Is it just like last year's tour?

Some elements feel very familiar, such as the iron-cross stage and the two top-tier artists, but there are a few changes. Hill's road manager Bernie Boyle says the look, feel and sound are new. "We haven't just come back with last year's show," Boyle said. "Chicago's known for great restaurants -- but all they have is meat, poultry and fish. If you keep going back, though, the chef can rework the ingredients -- we've done the same thing."

Will McGraw be playing tunes from his new album "Let it Go"?

He'll do a few of new ones, sure. But McGraw will unleash the old stuff, too. "If we didn't," he told the Tribune, "we'd get run out of town." And expect unexpected covers. McGraw and Hill have been opening shows with a duet of Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars," so apparently even alt-rock songs can become country songs.

Where's the best place to sit?

Technically, there's no front row with a stage like this -- a center stage with four catwalks. And the height of the stage creates obstructed views. So McGraw recommends sitting in the first level off the floor. "For listening and viewing, up top's where you want to be," he said. For Tim touchers, however, the floor's the sweet spot. Just know that if you reach any higher than his leg, you'll have to endure the wrath of Hill. "Last summer a woman went for his crotch, and I gave her a piece of my mind," Hill recalled.

Any cool opening acts?

This time, McGraw and Hill are bringing Taylor Swift along. She could fill all 19,000 seats with her MySpace friends alone, and is seeing McGraw live for the first time on this tour. "This is like the ultimate backstage pass," said Swift. She plays a 12-string guitar and writes her own songs, which gives her an authenticity well beyond her 17 years.

Why do they need such an elaborate production?

McGraw told the Tribune, "We've done plenty of shows where we just turn on the amps and play, but this is what fans want." Some fans on McGraw message boards, though, seem to long for the days when the show was more straightforward, and McGraw was more accessible. High-end shows yield more take-home pay, but the lack of intimacy may turn off those who like country shows for their down-home feel.

Can I catch a glimpse of Tim and Faith hanging out in Chicago?

Not likely. The McGraws will probably be hanging at the venue with their three girls and family dog instead of exploring the city. "It's hard to do that, because everyone's looking out for us," McGraw admitted.

Time for Faith? Or faith in Tim?

If you love Faith: Stay tuned early in the night when she takes the stage for her slew of No. 1s. Recent tunes "Lost" and "Mississippi Girl" plus old ones such as "This Kiss" and "The Way You Love Me" are sure to get fans on their feet.

If you love Tim: Be glad he's the main act. Because he'll be the one on stage the longest, doing all his famous stuff: "Something Like That," "Real Good Man," "I Like It, I Love It." Don't go for a beer run during his set, or else you might miss newer songs such as "Last Dollar."

If you love both: Grab the fan next to you and sway along to lust-laden duets such as current single "I Need You" or 2006 Grammy winner "Like We Never Loved at All." McGraw and Hill have a way of collaborating live that makes you believe they're in love.

If you love Taylor Swift: Her set will be short, so get there early to hear her sing the song that got her the gig, "Tim McGraw."

-- A.B.

Soul2Soul 2007 with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Country's first couple reigns for two nights in Chicago. When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday Where: United Center, 1901 W. Madison St. Price: $49.75-89.75; 312-559-1212

onthetown@tribune.com Copyright 2007, Chicago Tribune

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