Tim McGraw and Faith Hill at the United Center, August 2000

August 22nd, 2000

By Mark Guarino

Daily Herald Music Critic

If you thought America had enough of the precious yet puzzling marriage of Kathie Lee Gifford and husband Frank, think again.

Here come Gifford proteges Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, the country music couple whose shame knows no depth. The duo’s sold-out double bill at the United Center Sunday was split into three sets: her’s first, his second, then a third which brought both together for duets.

The theme was love, as in love for sale. According to People magazine, Hill’s music only accounts for 25 percent of her revenue. That means Hill, also a cosmetics model, and McGraw, also a beer pitch-man, make a living primarily as buff, sexy, singing commercials.

Endorsements aren’t exactly new in the world of music, but the way Hill and McGraw shilled was beyond brazen.

In a scripted bit of chitchat, Hill recounted how she happened to use a major long distance carrier (her sponsor) when he called a girlfriend and later, while talking to her husband, he just happened to be drinking a major light beer (his sponsor).

The video for her hit song “Breathe” flashed twice through the show and – surprise! – also at the cosmetics booth in the lobby during the show’s three long intermissions.

McGraw finished the job in his set. After the first few songs, he thanked his friends at the beer company and -whoosh! – up popped two gigantic inflatable beer bottles while a beer commercial ran on the video screens.

Then, right when his set was ending, a roadie ran on-stage brandishing a six-pack and handed McGraw a beer. He gulped a bit, looked mighty satisfied and handed the long neck to a guy in the crowd. Fans whooped, McGraw smiled and the roadie lifted the six-pack so the cameras could show just what was responsible for all those good times.

You’d think all that corporate interference would trim ticket costs for the fan, right? But at nearly $80 a pop, that clearly wasn’t the case.

Hustling people, when they’ve already coughed up that much, was truly the height of cynicism.

Indeed, both sets were jingle-esque. Hill is an unremarkable vocalist who can’t make the high notes and hits shrill shouts rather than sings.

Following in Shania Twain’s stilettos, she’s marked for her new Barbie body rather than her song interpreting skills. What else could explain her cover of Janis Joplin’s signature song, “Piece of My Heart,” which ditched its guttural roar in favor of synthesizers and vamping Up-With-People cheer?

Flexing the mic in his muscle shirt, McGraw sang with more twang, and confirmed his image as just a good ol’ boy, touched by tenderness (“Don’t Take The Girl”) and loving country living (“Where The Green Grass Grows”).

Like Kathie Lee and Frank, Hill and McGraw introduced their duet set with – what else? – a testimonial video. It presented their fantasy life where all that mattered was love, kids and a multi-million dollar home and travel budget.

Then came the songs dramatizing their relationship, which included “Let’s Make Love,” an embarrassing endorsement of their sex life.

It made good theater, but more “Sunset Beach” than Shakespeare.

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