by michelle rindels associated press
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill brushed off tabloid divorce rumors as they powered into an encore run of "Soul2Soul," a Las Vegas Strip residency that drew sellout crowds in its first season and is scheduled for 10 select weekends through April.
The country music royals sat close and bantered with each other before a doubleheader of shows Friday at the Venetian resort, telling reporters they've outlasted split rumors that started from the first weeks of their 17-year marriage.
"I wish people would stop buying that stuff, and I wish they'd just stop printing that stuff," Hill said of the tabloids. "Happy is good. I don't know why happy can't be a story."
The show, which squeezes the electricity of an arena production into a 1,800-seat theater with a live band, is a tag team of hits drawn from two decades of their separate, stellar careers. McGraw saunters across the stage with an electric guitar slung across his back, face half-hid in the shadow of a black cowboy hat as he drawls "Real Good Man."
"He has this charisma and this unexplainable presence. It's magnetic, and it's incredible," Hill said about her husband, whose current hits, including "Southern Girl," follow a laundry list of nearly three dozen chart-toppers. "I just feel like an amateur every single night."
Hill is the bad boy's angelic foil, luminous in white and gold as she's lifted from below the stage. A black costume she wears later in the show evokes both wings and a shroud as she moves between the sensuous "Breathe" and mournful "Like We Never Loved at All."
"She walks out and just opens her mouth and it comes out so beautifully and soulfully," McGraw said. "That's what keeps me on my toes."
The couple's chemistry takes center stage in the final duet as they sit on opposite sides of the same old-fashioned microphone, hands on each other's knees, and sing "I Need You."
McGraw called the Las Vegas shows a chance to "catch your breath" compared with the whirlwind of touring that he'll pick up once again this summer.
But even residency may be too much for the couple, who fly from Nashville to Las Vegas for performance weekends. Hill said she's less focused on new music projects than what's for dinner and how to manage social calendars for her three daughters. The oldest is a high school junior.
"I think this will probably be it," she said of the latest string of shows. "It's increasingly more difficult with the high school thing. You've just got to be there."
After Saturday's performances, the next showings of "Soul2Soul" are set for mid-January.