Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's Soul2Soul World Tour blazed through Alabama last night (April 21st), playing to a packed house at Birmingham's Legacy Arena. The show's tightly executed production was upstaged only by the couple themselves, who are undeniably at their best when collaborating. Birmingham was the fourth stop on the tour, which marks Tim and Faith's third Soul2Soul stint and their first since 2006. The 2017 leg is slated to visit 65 cities before wrapping in October. Over a carefully curated two hours, the couple rightfully assumed their place as country music royalty. Here are nine of the best moments we witnessed as Tim and Faith proved why, after 21 years of marriage, they're still the ultimate country-music power couple. For those who haven't yet seen the tour, be warned: Spoilers ahead.
Tim and Faith Debut New "Break First"
Throughout the evening Tim and Faith debuted multiple new songs from their forthcoming long-awaited duets album. Among them, "Break First" was an obvious standout as the couple traded vocals and shared harmonies on the pop-centric track that tells the story of two people standing at a crossroads, wondering who is going to be the first to extend forgiveness. As shards of fragmented glass shattered behind them on a massive LED screen, the couple faced each other, locking eyes with intensity and delivering rapid-fire lyrics with raw, believable emotion. While not inherently country from a musical standpoint, lyrically the song follows the genre's storytelling bent. Meanwhile, it's ready-made to be a full-throttle Adult Top 40 smash.
Tim Goes Solo
The first song of Tim's standalone set, "Angry All the Time," featured Faith contributing background vocals and playing acoustic guitar – a rare and welcome sight for an artist known more her vocal prowess than her musicianship. As Faith perched on a stool and intentionally faded into the background, Tim ascended into the forefront on a lift, seamlessly transitioning between sets. The organic sensibility of the song coupled with the vulnerable, homegrown lyrics and the blend of their voices made the classic cut a fitting bridge between Faith's stage time and Tim's portion.
Faith Gives "Breathe" Its Due
Arguably one of the biggest hits of her career, "Breathe" formed the centerpiece of Faith's set. Clad in a form-fitting blue dress with sparkling gladiator sandals, Faith took center stage on a raised triangular platform to perform the slow-burning ballad. Her voice steadied into a smolder amidst a blanket of smoke, sounding just as pure and controlled as when she originally recorded the song in 1999. Behind her, vibrant translucent imagery made for a transcendent moment. In the midst of a mainly up-tempo set, "Breathe" appropriately provided an instance of respite that showcased the sheer beauty of Faith's vocal range. Although Soul2Soul is Faith's first tour in a decade, her voice and charismatic stage presence showed no signs of rust.
"Speak to a Girl" Commands Respect
A highly-anticipated moment, "Speak to a Girl" found Faith and Tim giving their audience a lesson in respect. A soulful, honest attempt at reminding listeners that words matter, the couple's current single shone as brightly as Faith's shimmering knee-length gold dress. On the surface, the song is focused on female empowerment, but upon closer examination, it's truly a three-minute crash course on extending human kindness. "Young men, listen up. Young ladies, expect it," Tim shouted to the audience afterwards, with Faith echoing her husband's words with a resounding "Amen."
Tim Delivers a Stunning Vocal Trio
Tim's set ended with a trio of songs that served as a crescendo into the pinnacle of the evening. After sprinting through a handful of fan favorites and radio hits, he slowed the pace down with his most recent massive hit, "Humble and Kind," as stark images of a diverse cross-section of humanity, culled from the song's music video, played behind him. Continuing his inspirational message, he seamlessly segued straight into "Live Like You Were Dying" where fans' voices nearly overpowered the entertainer as the audience sang along. With the energy at its highest of the night, Faith rejoined him for a personal rendition of "It's Your Love."
"It's Your Love" Becomes the Night's Theme
"It's Your Love" was Tim and Faith's first duet as husband and wife and is what makes their collaborations such a hotly anticipated experience at every appearance since. Strains of "It's Your Love" could be heard in the opening sequence as the couple took the stage for the first time, but it wasn't until the end that Tim and Faith gifted the audience with the full performance. Candid family photos, including numerous snapshots of their three daughters, rotated on cloth strips that descended from the ceiling, while Tim and Faith swayed to the music, their arms around each other, as if they were dancing in their kitchen. "We're all about family. We're all about loving one another," Faith said. "That's what we do in the South."
Tim and Faith Know How to Pick Opening Acts
One of the best surprises of the Birmingham stop was Needtobreathe. The South Carolina natives unveiled strong harmonies and unmatched musicianship throughout their opening set of driving acoustic originals, which blended Americana, pop and gospel sensibilities. They only had time for an all-too-brief eight songs (including a moving cover of Ben E. King "Stand By Me"), but singer Bear Rinehart and his mates had the audience on their feet by the end of the set. With a different artist performing each weekend of the Soul2Soutl Tour, Needtobreathe is one of 26 opening acts hand-picked by Tim and Faith. Crossing genres, additional openers include Ben Rector, the Shadowboxers and Andra Day, as well as country newcomers like Cam, High Valley and Steve Moakler.
The Fans Become Part of the Show
The Soul2Soul encore began in unconventional fashion as Faith and Tim appeared out in the crowd. Faith snaked her way along the rows on the floor as she belted out a lively version of "Mississippi Girl," shaking hands, giving hugs and sharing smiles with fans, including many young girls seemingly in awe of the blonde beauty. With no break between songs, "Mississippi Girl" washed into "Something Like That," as Tim made his way down the lower level bleachers high-fiving fans. Artists at their level of success rarely make themselves so accessible, especially while singing two of their biggest hits. But judging by the wide smiles that lit up the LED screen, fans were thrilled by the superstars' authentic engagement.
"I Need You" Is a Showstopper
No Soul2Soul date would be complete without an intimate performance of "I Need You." Positioned on two mirrored straight-back chairs, Tim and Faith assumed their signature pose for the song, huddled around one mic, their hands resting easily on the other's leg. They rose and fell on a platform that floated on a cloud of billowing smoke with two iridescent triangles hovering above their heads like halos. To the audience's approval, they sealed the song with a long kiss. Of all the duets they've recorded, the intimacy of "I Need You" unlocks the magic that makes this couple – and this tour – so unique, and it provided a simple, yet stunning, way to conclude a spectacular evening.