Freeloader Gets Faith (but No Tim)

XM's Upfront Event and Artist Showcase

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The event: XM Satellite Radio's Upfront Event and Faith Hill Artist Showcase
The date: Oct. 2, 2007
The venue: Jazz at Lincoln Center, New York
The crowd: XM sales staff, radio media buyers and Faith Hill fans
The food: A surprisingly vast selection of French cheeses (with clearly marked labels -- so helpful when it comes to choosing which dairy products will tighten your belt buckle), mini-burgers with goat cheese and garlic chicken on a stick.
The bar: All the top-shelf vodka, wine and whiskey you could drink in between the upfront presentation and the Faith Hill concert.
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Freeloader thought we were done with upfront season in May, but leave it to the satellite-radio industry to start things up again. XM Satellite Radio held its annual upfront event for advertisers last night at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Freeloader showed up to hear what's worth buying in satellite radio and, of course, check out a free concert from this week's People cover girl, Faith Hill.

We arrived a tad late to the already-brief XM presentation, but we heard the most important part, about how satellite radio has a lot to offer marketers seeking targeted audiences. However, that meant we had plenty of time to load up on free food and drink before the night's main attraction. We heard last year's presentation featured Sting and a lute, so our expectations from Faith Hill were fairly high. Apparently the group of superfans felt the same way -- one in particular was showing off her Faith tattoo while waiting outside the theater.

As we settled into our seat, we were instantly reminded of why Jazz at Lincoln Center is easily one of the best venues in New York City -- you can gawk at both the Manhattan skyline and Central Park -- which made watching a country concert in the middle of one of the most uniquely metropolitan settings all the more of a funny juxtaposition.

Soon after Faith came out onstage to roaring approval from both the radio types and the adoring fans, she said, with some surprise, "Everybody sure is friendly here." Freeloader thought quietly to ourselves, "That's because they're not New Yorkers ..."

Luckily, Faith Hill has been specializing in country music by way of Top 40 radio ever since she crossed over with 1998's "This Kiss," to this day the only pop song to successfully rhyme "centrifugal" with "perpetual." Faith played that classic along with other pop hits like "Breathe" and "Cry," along with new single "Red Umbrella" and gospel-tinged fan favorite "Stronger." Her fist-clenching performance of the latter brought the crowd to their feet before it was over.

Like most ex-Midwesterners who've fled to the Coasts, Freeloader's interest in Faith Hill has been so YouTube-oriented as of late, it's easy to forget she has one of the biggest voices to come out of a blonde woman this side of the Mississippi. We might just have to invest in her new greatest-hits collection, which conveniently came out the morning of her XM performance.

So all in all, we learned a little bit about satellite radio, ate some of the better free upfront food we've ever had and got an earful of pleasing pseudo-country music from Faith Hill. Best of all? Everyone escaped without getting publicly scolded for lusting after her hunky husband, Tim McGraw.
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