In November 2017, I leapt out of my desk in the Gazette-Mail newsroom, ran to Bill Lynch’s desk, and breathlessly asked him if I could review the upcoming Tim McGraw and Faith Hill concert.
Lynch, the Gazette-Mail’s entertainment writer, skeptically looked up at me and pointed out that the newspaper was facing uncertain times and that, in addition, the concert at the Charleston Civic Center wasn’t until June.
I knew I’d be there, I told him that, and he took a note.
Seven months later, Faith and Tim did not disappoint.
It would have been easy to do. My first concert was Tim McGraw, around 2004. I know every word to all of their biggest hits. But I learned Friday they’ve only improved with time.
I also learned that I am a liar, because I told a friend that I’d probably sit down the whole time and relax, and that it’s awkward to take notes when you’re dancing.
I did make sure to take a note when after “Humble and Kind,” McGraw pointed out: “We could use a little bit more of that in the world right now.” The two later demonstrated some of their humility when each of them took a turn looping around the floor of the Civic Center, letting fans catch a glimpse or a hand.
The two sang classic hits that I’d hoped for — “I Like It, I Love It” took me back to some country road in Doddridge County, singing with the window down and nothing else on my mind. But they also made room for newer songs. Hill sang “Amazing Grace” twice, I think because she wanted to give it the performance it deserved.
And McGraw took a shot at “Country Roads.”
(There will probably be complaints about his version of “Country Roads.” But c’mon, guys. The audience took it over for him, and we all know it describes western Virginia, anyway.)
When performers are that beloved, longtime fans often get upset if this song or that song wasn’t performed. They didn’t sing several of my favorites, but I don’t think anyone should have been disappointed they didn’t hear “Indian Outlaw.”
Maybe I’m supposed to be commenting on pitch, or the lights, or the dynamics, and it was all great. OK, the sound could have been better, but we all knew the lyrics. The best way I know to describe the evening is this:
I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about next steps. I also wondered if listening to songs I associate with being a kid, I’d be flooded with memories.
In the end, I just felt grateful to be in that space with those people at that time.
You know how at certain shows, you’ll look at your watch and wonder how much is left? Not because you’re not enjoying it, but you’re not swept up in it. Or maybe you’re checking your phone.
Performers who can keep you in the space they’ve created have a gift.
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill can sing “Angry All The Time,” about a couple splitting up, and you feel the loss. They sing “It’s Your Love,” and the entire room feels the abundance of it.
Thanks to you both for sharing your gifts in Charleston, West Virginia. And thanks Bill, for remembering. I told you I’d be there.