LAS VEGAS - The cowboy hat count was on the uptick over the weekend in the casino at The Venetian, the ornate Italian-themed resort.
Some cowboys came for the roping at the annual Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, which happens in Sin City this week. But others came for the music.
Larry Smith, for example, might have been sporting a Western-style shirt with Wrangler and Jack Daniels patches, but he flew to Vegas with his wife, Lisa, solely to see Faith Hill and Tim McGraw's show Soul2Soul, which opened at The Venetian on Friday.
"We just like country music," Lisa Smith said of making the trip from Beaumont, Calif.
It seemed many of the 1,800 people in the Venetian Theatre for the star couple's second night of their 10-weekend stand like country music, too, as Hill and McGraw delivered a high-energy but often intimate show that prompted multiple standing ovations, overhead clapping and arms stretched to the theater's domed ceiling.
To start things off, fans had an up-close encounter with the stars as they entered the room through side doors. They made their way to the stage while singing Hill's hit Let's Go to Vegas, while shaking hands with guests across the aisles like an exchange of the peace at a church service.
The couple then tag-teamed it onstage to showcase one another's hits such as Breathe and Live Like You Were Dying, with McGraw in a tailored suit and Hill making four bedazzling costume changes. But, of course, the couple joined forces for duets, too, such as the popular It's Your Love.
A highlight of the show - especially for a woman named Linda - came when McGraw singled the fan out of the crowd and called her to the stage. She walked toward him slowly with her hands clapped over her mouth before he serenaded her. Then, he pulled out a pen, signed his guitar and handed it over to her.
Partway through their performance, McGraw and Hill sat down, and the house lights turned up for a conversation about background and influences. It started with some playful ribbing ("Before we go any further, seriously, do you not have socks on?" Hill asked). McGraw spoke of Merle Haggard, George Jones, Charlie Rich, Rush, Led Zeppelin and The Eagles, which resulted in covers of I Can't Tell You Why and Life in the Fast Lane. Hill spoke of Tammy Wynette, Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples and her first concert, Elvis Presley, before delivering a rousing rendition of Franklin's Dr. Feelgood (Love is Serious Business) and Bridge Over Troubled Water.
While the shimmer and energy of Vegas certainly kept a presence throughout the show with its modern backdrop of a semi-circle in colored lights, it didn't come across in an over-the-top way. McGraw took a running leap offstage and back to the audience at one point, for example, and Hill took the stage for her final solo run in a striking, glittery silver pants suit to perform Piece of My Heart. But the show ended with just the couple, seated and facing one another for a final duet of I Need You.
Hill and McGraw have not performed on tour in the United States together since 2007, and in a news release, The Venetian calls the show "its biggest musical event ever." Hill and McGraw's popular co-headlining tour, Soul2Soul, first launched in 2000. It saw at least two revivals and was the most successful tour in country music history in 2006.
If you go
Soul2Soul at The Venetian runs through April. For tickets, which begin at $95.50, contact www.venetian.com.