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Superstar Saturday Night

Faith Hill’s fans follow her up the mountain

Review by Shelley Arnusch

Who: Faith Hill with Natalie MacMaster

Where: Base II, Blackcomb Mountain

There are performers, and then there are superstars.

A superstar can come out in a T-shirt and jeans and make thousands of people sitting on the cold hard ground feel like they were in the plushest of theatre seats.

A superstar can make people catch their breath just anticipating what the next song will be.

And most importantly for organizers of last weekend’s Faith Hill Live in Whistler concert, a superstar will draw a crowd whenever and wherever they go.

Last Saturday evening Grammy award winning country pop vocalist Faith Hill convinced close to 10,000 people to follow her up a mountain.

For some, it was home turf. For others, it might as well have been the moon.

Of course, once they were there it all made perfect sense. The svelte Hill took the stage escorted by two firefighters just as the setting sun was turning the sky behind the impressive outdoor stage baby pink. It was a gorgeous sight, enough to make any doubts about the remoteness of the concert site melt away.

In the fading light, the all-American beauty waved hello, took the mic and delivered hit after hit, sounding as polished live as she does on her multi-platinum CDs, to the delight of the assembled Faith-ful – a crowd unofficially tagged at 10,000.

She did it with a remarkable lack of glitz and glamour. Aside from the bedazzler-detailing running down the side of her jeans and across the simple and conservative navy T-shirt she wore over a green long-sleeved undershirt, Ms. Hill was the every woman. Sporting sensible shoulder-length hair she was more yummy mommy than music diva, a best gal pal, greeting each pause with a friendly "hi!" and a big ol’ smile.

A stunning, head-turning beauty, she still wouldn’t have seemed out of place hanging out on a blanket amidst the tier two non-seating ticket holders or sipping out of a plastic cup in the beer gardens.

But Hill wasn’t in the beer gardens. She was on stage. Behind the every woman image is the God’s gift to mainstream music voice, which was piped out over the mountains last Saturday by a sound system that was more than up to the task.

She received a helluva warm up earlier on from vivacious Cape Breton fiddle virtuoso Natalie MacMaster who wowed the crowd with a combination of sassy licks and mind-blowing dance moves. In many ways the opposite of Hill, MacMaster blazed on stage in a rock ’n’ roll turquoise/multi-coloured get up without a hit song to her name. A ball of infectious, spritely energy MacMaster whipped her legs in brain-numbing traditional jigs without missing a beat on the fiddle, stopping only to introduce her Caper and Newfie band which included a very hip piper.

Such a display couldn’t steal Hill’s superstar thunder.

The choice to open with Hey Baby Let’s Go to Vegas seemed to indicate that she was using the Whistler show as a dress rehearsal for the series of performances at Caesar’s Palace currently underway.

The Faith-ful didn’t seem to mind, however, joining her party willingly by singing along to upbeat numbers such as This Kiss and getting misty on heartfelt slow dance favourites such as Breathe.

With the exception of one brief scuffle that drew the attention of several security personnel the crowd was for the most part a docile lot. One couple got up to waltz country wedding-style at one point and several meandered down to politely "rush" the stage, but most were content to sit and absorb Hill’s clear, straightforward vocal stylings, which remained refreshingly uncluttered by the dramatic flourishes employed by many of her contemporaries.

She remained true to form even throughout the intimate jazzy number "Paris," which she introduced mid-show as her favourite song she has ever recorded and sang with genuine warmth.

Hill’s only mis-steps came in her two-song encore. The inimitable Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart was turned from straight-up Southern Comfort into a virgin daiquiri in Hill’s well-meaning hands.

She fared better vocally on Paul McCartney’s Maybe I’m Amazed, but the romantic tribute song inflated many fans’ hopes for a surprise appearance by Hill’s husband Tim McGraw, a fellow country star of equally stratospheric profile. When he failed to turn up by the final stanza, it took a bit of the fizz out of what should have been a stellar send off.

The disappointment, however, was only in the minds of those who needed to see two superstars to make their night complete. For most of the Faith-ful fans old and new on the mountain last Saturday one superstar was everything they could ask for and more.