Soul 2 Soul Sets Sail McGraw and Hill Bow 2000 Tour Tonight in Atlanta

McGraw and Hill Bow 2000 Tour Tonight in Atlanta

When Tim McGraw and Faith Hill take the stage tonight (July 12) at the Phillips Arena in Atlanta to open their “Soul 2 Soul Tour 2000,” the couple will have a few surprises in store for the audience, McGraw’s manager promises.

From opening acts to new material to a newly designed stage set — with lots of input from the couple themselves — the tour will feel original and exciting in a number of ways, says Scott Siman, former Sony Music chief and President of RPM Management.

“Totally new stage design, new lighting rig, new sound system — everything brand new, from top to bottom,” he clucks. “They were both really hands-on, working hard to give us their visions and their ideas of what they wanted to accomplish with their individual sets and with their duet set.”

McGraw and Hill are co-headliners, but the show effectively presents three different superstars — McGraw, Hill and the duet of McGraw and Hill together, he says. “That presented some interesting challenges and some interesting opportunities.”

Though rumored for weeks, the tour was announced officially at the end of May. McGraw and Hill met in 1996 when Hill was a support act for McGraw’s “Spontaneous Combustion Tour.” They married Oct. 6, 1996, and have two daughters: Gracie, who just turned 3 in May, and Maggie, who will be 2 in August.

They have never toured together as a married couple and are undertaking Soul 2 Soul 2000 in part so that they can continue to spend time together as a family. During 1999, the artists arranged their respective schedules so that they spent no more than three days apart in any one stretch. “We did it, but it was really tough,” says Siman. “It was hard on everybody to make it happen.”

McGraw and Hill also want to tour together because each is at a major career plateau, doing remarkably well professionally. This may be the optimum time to make such a dream a reality.

McGraw is the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year for both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. Hill is the reigning Female Vocalist of the Year for the Academy of Country Music and Country Weekly Presents the TNN Music Awards. Both artists have an album in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. McGraw is there with A Place in the Sun, out over a year and certified triple platinum for shipments of three million copies. Hill’s entry is Breathe, issued almost nine months ago and also certified triple platinum. Hill also has scored major crossover success with her hits “This Kiss” and “Breathe.” She sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” at this year’s Super Bowl, and she will be featured July 23 on VH-1’s Behind the Music, a show most often reserved for rock and pop stars.

Announcement of the tour was delayed, Siman explains, because the level of activity for each artist made it hard to work out logistics. “There was just so much going on for each individual career and so many opportunities to deal with, from making records to sponsorships, to advertising, to TV. We had to figure out whether we could create a realistic window to make it happen — and we did.”

Though they are married, the artists have different professional teams — managers, agents, record labels and the like — behind them. The two camps had to work together to mount the tour. “Clearly, we got the message from Tim and Faith, ’This is what we want to happen. You guys are great, you each have your skills and talents. We want you to take those and focus ’em on this tour.'”

Ticket sales have been “through the roof” for all dates on sale so far, Siman says, and additional dates may be added beyond the Sept. 29 concert in Detroit. All dates are sold out, but organizers are considering going to a 360-degree configuration in some markets, to make additional seats available behind the stage. “We structured the set to be able to go into a 360 configuration, to give ourselves that option,” Siman says.

The song selection will be interesting, he promises, and fans of each artist will hear songs they have not heard the couple sing before. In planning the pairing of the two stars, organizers looked at tandem tours by artists such as Billy Joel and Elton John, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner and George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

Some markets will have an opening act — there are a number of “fun, wacky ideas” being considered, Siman says. Each night, Hill will do an hour-long set first, McGraw will follow, also for an hour, and the two will perform together for a half-hour.

“It’s not all about how many fireworks we can set off at the front of the stage,” Siman says. “We’ve got the fireworks with Tim and Faith. All our production elements are designed to make that the magic moment. This is a ’couples’ tour. You’re going to get a lot of Tim McGraw fans, you’re going to get a lot of Faith Hill fans, but you’re going to get a lot of people who want to come see the couple.”