Over the course of a half-hour press conference, exact details about the content of the show were nebulous, partly because the run doesn't start till December and is still in the planning stages. But when I finally asked whether each of them would be disappearing from the stage for a good portion of the show while the other sings his or her individual hits, McGraw couldn't have been clearer: "I would say that the chances of us not being on stage together for any length of time, maybe other than a song or two, are small," he emphasized.
We're still not getting a duets album any time soon, but a full-on duets show may be the next best thing... if not an better one, for the 1,815 people a night who'll be populating the Venetian come December and the four months that follow.
They're resisting the R-word—"residency"—preferring to go with "limited engagement" instead. Their duo act will hit the non-road at the Venetian on Dec. 10 and continue with four shows a weekend over 10 weekends extending from the Christmas season to April 2013. But they want to distinguish it from something like Garth Brooks' open-ended run down the Strip, and from a Celine Dion literally making herself at home in town.
When a Las Vegas reporter mentioned the difficulty of "parachuting in and out of town" and whether they'd be immersing themselves in the community, the couple didn't have any pretensions about really becoming part-time Nevada residents.
"We are parachuting in and out, pretty quickly," said Hill. "It's not a residency."
"It's a moment in time," added McGraw, "for our career and our fans and the Venetian." This was one of about a dozen times someone uttered the phrase "moment in time" during the press confab, emphasizing the specialness of the 10-week run, and its ephemeral nature; in other words, don't think you can wait and get tickets in 2014, after it gets extended another 10 weeks, and then another, and then another.
Not being open-ended is one way the show will differ from Garth's. Another is that it won't be a simple, acoustic production like Brooks'. "We're in the prcess of building the show now," said McGraw, "but we can say that the production's going to be cutting edge. We want to do really cool stuff, things that certainly we haven't done before and probably some things that haven't been done before (by anyone), in a lot of ways. We're gonna do some things you can only do in a beautiful setting like this."
The Venetian Theatre is currently hosting the last lap of the long-running Phantom, an abridged-for-busy-gamblers version of Broadway's Phantom of the Opera, for which the space was constructed.
Though their four kids obviously won't be coming out from Tennessee for all the shows, "they're very excited," McGraw said, "because they love going to the shows. They probably won't see ours."
"They were a little upset that we're going to be here and Phantom is out," Hill quipped.
Tickets range in price from $96.50 to $295.50 ("inclusive of tax," the Venetian is quick to add)—not including the $1,000 VIP tickets that include seating in the first two rows and some other perks. They'll be playing at 8 and 10:30 on Friday and Saturday nights for two weekends in December, January, and April, three weekends in February, and one weekend in March. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Aug. 13 at 10 a.m., but a presale starts this week, affording early sales to members of the performers' respective fan clubs as well as the Venetian's loyalty club.
A near-instant sell-out does not seem at all out of the question, regardless of the not-very-down-home top ticket prices. Figure that McGraw is playing to 50,000 people a night on some of his current c0-headlining stadium shows with Kenny Chesney, whereas in, say, March, he and Hill will be playing to a total potential audience of 7,200 people in Vegas. And then figure that these two are promising a show formatted very differently than anything they've done before or might possibly do again. Scarcity should be the buzzword.
As for how they'll handle the inevitable scalping: "Look, there's a couple of guys in Vegas that have got some big baseball bats," McGraw said.
"Truck yeah, he does," interjected moderator David Wild.
"I won't be singing that, by the way!" pointed out Hill. "To me, this is another reason (to do it): to put the show together in a way we've not done in the past. Because on the Soul2Soul tours, we focused so much on making sure that we cover most of our hits—well, for me, all of my hits; for him, half of his hits. And we will certainly give the fans what they want, but this affords us the opportunity to really be creative in a way that we've never experienced before together."
The inevitable question arose about whether these two have any advice for keeping it together.
"I live in a house full of women, so just be as quiet as possible," McGraw advised.
The moderator took a question from a fan on the web about what pet peeves they have with one another.
"You go first, so I can figure out where I can land," laughed Hill. She then took the initiative anyway. "I'm sure if he answered this question truthfully, he'd probably say he wished that I was less Type A, I'm sure."
He countered: "Not right now, though, when we're putting this thing together."
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