View the original article at: http://www.countryweekly.com/magazine/vault/george-straits-tour-across-country
Originally published in our July 8, 2013 issue featuring George Strait on the cover.
By now, George Strait fans likely know the story of George’s plans for the future. In 2012, George announced that he would put an end to the traveling portion of his career, admitting, “I have lost a lot of sleep over this decision.” He would tour in 2013 and again in 2014, and then hang up his road hat for good. The good news: He’ll continue to make records and albums. George has already delivered on that promise, as he recently released his latest project, Love Is Everything, featuring the hit single “Give It All We Got Tonight.”
But as far as touring, it’s one down and one to go. George recently completed the first leg of his farewell series of shows, billed as The Cowboy Rides Away Tour. Appropriately, the native Texan kicked off and ended the tour in the Lone Star State, beginning with Lubbock in January and winding up with a massive show at the Alamodome in San Antonio on June 1. Martina McBride served as the opening act for each stop, with a special appearance by Miranda Lambert at the San Antonio show. Cities on the tour included Houston; Knoxville, Tenn.; Las Vegas and New Orleans, and each show provided its share of memorable moments.
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights from George’s 2013 The Cowboy Rides Away Tour. And remember, if you missed him this time around, he’ll tour one more time in 2014. Those dates and venues have not been announced yet, but they’re anticipated to be revealed later this summer.
George’s shows are held in the round, which best suits his performing style. As George’s fans are certainly aware, the singer does not shower his performances with special effects or choreography, so he prefers to be in the middle of the audience. “The in-the-round [format] allows him to walk around where he gets to see more of the audience and he can play to all corners of the stage,” says George’s concert promoter, Louis Messina, CEO of The Messina Group. “That’s what it’s all about for George.”
His first stop on the 2013 tour was a city that George had played several times in his career—Lubbock, Texas. But it’s obvious that the fans are still hungry for more. This show, held at the United Spirit Arena, sold out in less than 20 minutes. Martina opened the show and declared, “There is some history being made tonight!” referring, of course, to the fact that these lucky fans were attending the first night of George’s final tour. After Martina’s opening set, which included her hits “A Broken Wing,” “Teenage Daughters” and “Wild Angels,” George entered the stage to wild and extended applause. He kicked off his set with the upbeat “Here for a Good Time,” a song he wrote with his son, Bubba, and veteran songwriter Dean Dillon. He followed with two of his most popular No. 1s, “Ocean Front Property” and “Check Yes or No.”
Song selection, George told Country Weekly at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum this past fall, would likely serve as the most difficult task when putting together the tour. After all, King George, as he’s often called, rules the all-time country music charts with 44 Billboard No. 1 singles, along with a multitude of Top 10 hits. How do you narrow that down?
“There are certain ones you can’t leave out,” George affably explained. “Songs like ‘The Fireman,’ ‘The Chair’ and ‘Amarillo by Morning’—I have to do those. But it is tough to eliminate.” George has, indeed, been featuring those three classics during the first leg of his farewell trek, along with more obscure tunes like “Arkansas Dave,” co-written by Bubba, and “80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper,” which he explained was one of the first tunes he ever recorded in Nashville. During one point in the show, George told the fans, ‘I’m happy, but I’m sad, too,” alluding to his final tour. “It means so much to me that you all came out.”
George tossed in a rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues” in the set, which ended with his now signature exit song, “The Cowboy Rides Away.”
Houston has always proven a favorite city for George, who has drawn record crowds with his past appearances at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. When the announcement was made that George would include this year’s Houston extravaganza on the schedule, the demand for tickets reached Super Bowl proportions. More than 77,000 tickets were sold within the first two minutes, a figure that seems mathematically impossible but was nonetheless verified on all counts. George’s March show marked his 29th performance at the Livestock Show and Rodeo.
The Houston Business Journal reported that George set an all-time attendance record for the Houston event, playing to more than 80,000 fans at the city’s main venue, Reliant Stadium. Local favorites Randy Rogers Band opened for George, along with Martina. As part of the big weekend, the Rodeo Houston organization also announced that a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo George Strait Scholarship would be awarded annually, to honor George’s legacy and his longtime partnership with the event.
George performed his final show of the year at the Alamodome in San Antonio, the city where George currently resides. The capacity crowd of more than 73,000 broke his own attendance record at the venue, which he previously set in 2010. For this show, fans received a bonus opening-act treat in Miranda Lambert, who played a full set of hits that included “Fastest Girl in Town,” “Baggage Claim,” “Kerosene” and others.
George entered the stage and immediately confessed to a slight bout of butterflies. “I’ve been thinking about this show all month long,” he began, “and I have to admit, I was a little nervous. But I’m not anymore!” George then proceeded to light into a two-hour set.
A fixture of every show on The Cowboy Rides Away Tour involves a special moment for a member of the U.S. military. A mortgage-free home is awarded to one service member through the Military Warriors Support Foundation’s “Homes 4 Wounded Heroes” program. George officially presents the ceremonial key to the home onstage to the recipient.
In San Antonio, two fortunate families received homes. United States Marine Corps Staff Sgt./E-6 Jose Sanchez and his wife, Angela, were the first recipients and, in celebration of the last tour stop of the year, U.S. Army SFC John Faulkenberry and his wife, Sarah, became the 23rd family on the tour to be handed a key to a home by George himself.
George will do it all over again in 2014, though likely in different cities and markets. What will stay constant is a show packed with hits and highlights from the man who’s been giving us country favorites since 1981. “This is one guy that I sit there night after night and just be mesmerized,” says Louis Messina. “He has you in the palm of his hand.”