GEORGE STRAIT’S QUICKEN LOANS PRESENTS: THE COWBOY RIDES AWAY TOUR FINAL RIDE SHATTERS INDOOR CONCERT ATTENDANCE RECORD FOR NORTH AMERICA AT 104,793
THE REIGNING ACM AND CMA ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR WAS JOINED BY JASON ALDEAN, KENNY CHESNEY, ERIC CHURCH, SHERYL CROW, VINCE GILL, FAITH HILL, ALAN JACKSON, MIRANDA LAMBERT AND MARTINA McBRIDE
ARLINGTON, Texas (Saturday, June 7, 2014) – George Strait has set many records in his illustrious career: the most No. 1 singles of any artist in any genre, the only artist to chart a Top 10 hit every year for 30 years, and the most No. 1 albums, gold albums, and platinum albums in the history of country music to name a few. Tonight, Strait notched another career accomplishment breaking an indoor concert attendance record for North America initially set by The Rolling Stones in 1981*. With 104,793 in attendance and the top names in country music joining him for the final ride of Quicken Loans Presents: The Cowboy Rides Away Tour, the reigning ACM and CMA Entertainer of the Year took fans on a three-hour journey of memories by way of 40 songs from throughout his storied career, including 20 of his massive 60 No. 1 hits.
Strait appeared on the stage after a warm welcoming introduction from good friend Ray Benson of opening performers Asleep at the Wheel. The King of Country appeared to be in awe of the sheer magnitude of the crowd, and after waiting for the applause to subside following his opening song “Check Yes Or No,” he addressed the crowd with his trademark grin and echoing his expression said, “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here tonight, it’s been on my mind since we started this tour two years ago!”
Shortly after--a mere two songs in--he welcomed his first of nine special guests for the evening to the stage signifying the commencement of a historical musical journey showcasing over thirty years of Strait classics.
“In the 33 years since his auspicious 1981 debut album, Strait Country, the Frank Sinatra of country music has staunchly and elegantly reigned supreme over an ever-changing commercial landscape. While the country music industry struggled with its identity in an effort to increase its bottom line, Strait stayed the course. He made traditional country music without compromises and never fell out of favor with the fickle radio dial,” Dallas Morning News’ Mario Tarradell noted.
Strait told People Magazine, “I knew it would be kind of emotional but I was still a little surprised to feel it that strongly. The first three or four shows in 2013 were the toughest, but every night it was in the back of my mind to take it all in, because I probably wouldn’t ever come back there again. It made me want to put on the best show we’ve ever done there. I hope we did that. I feel like we did.'
To add to the emotional charge filling the AT&T Stadium air was the retirement of Bruce Hardy who has also celebrated 30+ years in the industry as the general manager of Texas Stadium and the current home to the Dallas Cowboys and Strait’s tour farewell stage, AT&T Stadium. Hardy surely echoed Strait’s sentiment following the performance of “The Chair,” as the crowd roared and the superstar revealed, “That’s what I’m going to miss the most right there.”
Amidst the hits, Strait paused for a very special moment and continued his tour tradition of presenting a home as part of the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF) “Homes 4 Wounded Heroes” (H4WH). Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry, a medal of honor recipient, and his wife Ashley were recognized as 51st recipients from the tour and received a million dollar home in the Dallas area.
The 2013-2014 H4WH home presentations were made possible through Strait’s longtime friend, Lieutenant General Leroy Sisco, U.S. Army (Retired). The homes made available for the program are donated to MWSF through partnerships and, as unveiled at Strait’s first 2013 show in Lubbock, Texas, were awarded to at least one service member at every tour stop on The Cowboy Rides Away Tour. In addition to the homes, all of the recipient families from the tour stops also received groceries for a year from Walmart, a flat screen television, and an entire George Strait CD collection.
In addition to the charitable contributions through H4WH, Strait also partnered with CID Entertainment to facilitate a charity auction at every 2013 and 2014 tour stop including front row Troubadour Package tickets, a meet-and-greet with Strait, and more. After the final 2014 tour stop in Dallas, the program has raised $1,325,619 for The Jenifer Strait Foundation ($239,302 in 2013 and $1,086,317 in 2014) with over 3,000 VIPs ticketholders hosted and 500 travel packages accommodated.
June 7, 2014 Set List:
“Check Yes or No”
“A Fire I Can’t Put Out”
“Lovebug” with Special Guest Vince Gill
“Does Ft. Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” with Special Guest Vince Gill
“River of Love”
“Fool Hearted Memory” with Special Guest Jason Aldean
“Nobody in His Right Mind Would Have Left Her” with Special Guest Jason Aldean
“I Saw God Today”
“Cowboys Like Us” with Special Guest Eric Church
“Easy Come Easy Go” with Special Guest Eric Church
“The King of Breaking Hearts”
“Marina Del Rey”
“Here For A Good Time” with Special Guest Sheryl Crow
“When Did You Stop Loving Me” with Special Guest Sheryl Crow
“I Can Still Make Cheyenne”
“Jackson” with Special Guest Martina McBride
“Golden Ring” with Special Guest Martina McBride
Military Warrior Support Foundation Home Giveaway
“Give It Away”
“I Got A Car”
“A Showman’s Life” with Special Guest Faith Hill
“Let’s Fall To Pieces Together” with Special Guest Faith Hill
“Blame It On Mexico”
“Amarillo By Morning” with Special Guest Alan Jackson
“Murder On Music Row” with Special Guest Alan Jackson
“Give It All We Got Tonight”
“How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls” wit Special Guest Miranda Lambert
“Run” with Special Guest Miranda Lambert
“You Look So Good In Love”
“I’ll Always Remember You”
“Ocean Front Property” with Special Guest Kenny Chesney
“The Fireman” with Special Guest Kenny Chesney
Encore (Strait was joined by all special guests):
'All My Ex's Live In Texas'
“Folsom Prison Blues”
“The Cowboy Rides Away”
King George Strait to turn Cowboys Country into country-music capital for farewell show
By MARIO TARRADELL Special contributor to the Dallas Morning News
The cowboy rides away.
Country music icon George Strait, the most influential genre artist of the last 30 years, ends his decades of touring with a career closer on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. It should be a performance for the ages, one that underscores his unerring artistic legacy just as it cements his independence and integrity. Strait is exiting the stage on his own terms.
He leaves it just as he stepped onto it. In the 33 years since his auspicious 1981 debut album, Strait Country, the Frank Sinatra of country music has staunchly and elegantly reigned supreme over an ever-changing commercial landscape. While the country music industry struggled with its identity in an effort to increase its bottom line, Strait stayed the course. He made traditional country music without compromises and never fell out of favor with the fickle radio dial. He spearheaded the hat act movement of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and he became the benchmark for every burgeoning singer with a penchant for three chords and the truth.
And from the beginning, North Texas was squarely on his side. Strait’s longstanding relationship with Dallas-Fort Worth audiences, concert venues and entertainment movers and shakers dates back to 1981 when a still relatively unknown cowboy born in Poteet and raised in Pearsall, Texas, played Fort Worth’s venerable honky-tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas. He sat in with the club’s house band for nearly a week on the small Honky Tonk Stage.
Through the years, Strait graduated to headlining status on Billy Bob’s Texas’ main stage, tried his luck at Lancaster’s Crystal Chandelier, drew the huge numbers at Starplex (now Gexa Energy Pavilion), performed during a string of New Year’s Eve concerts at the now-leveled Reunion Arena, served as the main attraction during several George Strait Country Music Festivals at the since-demolished Texas Stadium, and played a handful of one-offs at Pizza Hut Park (now Toyota Stadium) in Frisco, American Airlines Center in Dallas, the Fort Worth-Tarrant County Convention Center, and a “Starfest” concert at Park Central in Dallas back in 1985.
His last two North Texas shows are bookends – he inaugurated Cowboys Stadium in June 2009 and returns to the same venue, now named AT&T Stadium, five years later for his swan song gig.
“We care about George,” said Bruce Hardy, senior vice president and senior advisor at AT&T Stadium. “George is family to us.”
Hardy met Strait in the early ‘90s. He admits he begged Strait to sing at Texas Stadium, which was then the recognized home of the Dallas Cowboys. Hardy was vice president and general manager of Texas Stadium. With the help of famed concert promoter Louis Messina of Austin’s The Messina Group, Strait heralded five country music festivals at the stadium. He also headlined the 2004 one-of-a-kind triple-threat shindig with Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson.
So the Cowboys Stadium-AT&T Stadium concerts were merely natural progressions for Strait, a man who cultivates strong professional and personal bonds and remains loyal to them.
“Who else would you want to open your stadium with but George Strait?” Hardy said. “And where else would he want to close his concerts but at AT&T Stadium? Everyone is so excited.”
Yet there would be no AT&T Stadium mega-gig without Strait’s formative years on both Billy Bob’s Texas stages. Pam Minick, former marketing director of the club and wife of BBT co-owner Billy Minick, remembers the crowds’ immediate reaction to Strait.
“Billy Bob’s Texas is a home for real cowboys,” Minick said. “From the beginning he was a real cowboy. A real cowboy can tell a real cowboy by the way they wear their jeans and the way they shape their hats. So the audience immediately took to him. He was the real deal.”
Indeed. Strait graduated in 1979 from Southwest Texas State University with a degree in agriculture. Once upon a time he was a cattle ranch foreman by day and a fledgling country singer by night. Minick, who has called Strait a friend since the early ‘80s, will quickly tell you that he loves to fish, loves the land. He comes from cattle country.
“When he wears the cowboy hat, it’s because he’s a real cowboy,” she said. “It’s not part of his costume.”
Plus, Strait never allowed the trappings of stardom to slick-up his image. Even his big feature film, 1992’s Pure Country, was set and filmed in his cherished Texas, not Hollywood. The movie’s soundtrack sold 6 million copies and produced two beloved Strait staples with the barn burner “Heartland” and the classic country ballad “I Cross My Heart.”
On celluloid, just like on a real concert stage, Strait is perhaps the most consistent performer of any genre. He needs no pomp and circumstance, no expensive props or rigidly choreographed dancers. He requires no “bling,” as Minick says. Strait proved time and again that classic songs, talented backing musicians in his trusted Ace in the Hole Band, and a voice that pays homage to country’s rich traditions will draw the masses.
Strait’s impact on modern-day country music is enormous and unending. He is the genre’s most influential singer of the last 30 years, a man single-handedly responsible for the hat act movement that embraced cowboy culture, sonic traditionalism and a guy-next-door approachability. He made it cool to wear Wranglers and Stetsons. His voice, clearly his calling card, is a most elegant instrument. It is without histrionics or affectations, just a plain-spoken baritone that exudes the everyday humanity of universal truths.
Throughout the course of 28 studio albums and more than 68 million in record sales, Strait has exercised nearly untarnished taste in songs. It’s no wonder he’s amassed 60 No. 1 country singles and holds the record for most Country Music Association Award nominations, with 82; he’s won 22 times. He’s been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.
“Strait was the standard for how a male country singer should look and sound,” says Brian Mansfield, USA Today Nashville correspondent. “All those hat acts from the country music boom time — the Garth Brooks, the Clint Blacks, the Alan Jacksons — that came directly from Strait.”
Mansfield called him “a talented and dedicated virtuoso whose art is filled with such immense grace and subtlety it appears simpler than it actually is.”
Strait’s exit from the concert arena is just that. He will continue to record. Radio will continue to play his songs. There’s no comeback story here, no dramatic farewell. Strait leaves the concert stage on his own terms and with his star power intact.
Even if we can’t see him, we’ll always hear him.
Plan your life
The concert is June 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. Gates to plazas at AT&T Stadium open at 3 p.m., doors open at 4 p.m. The show begins at 6 p.m. Opening act is Asleep at the Wheel. The following acts will perform three songs: Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Miranda Lambert and Martina McBride. Sold out.
George Strait proved that less can be more on Bayou Country Superfest's opening night
By Keith Spera, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Baton Rouge, LA..Tiger Stadium, whether hosting gridiron warfare or the Bayou Country Superfest, is generally devoid of subtlety. But on the opening night of the 2014 Bayou Country Superfest, George Strait and his Ace in the Hole band rewarded careful listening.
Their generous, tidy, 32-song set favored finely wrought and rendered ballads, delivered over the course of 2 1/4 hours. Nuance abounded: In the ascending pedal steel guitar solo that elevated 'Check Yes or No.' The fiddle that faded away with 'Amarillo by Morning.' The flamenco guitar of 'Blame It on Mexico.' The way Strait held and savored the 'long' in 'When Did You Stop Loving Me?' and the way he articulated the whole of 'Marina Del Rey.'
None of it was showy. All of it spoke to the power of restraint, a language that Strait has mastered.
He came to prominence in the early 1980s at the vanguard of a traditional country music revival, and has never wavered. Thirty-plus years later, at age 62, he is easing into retirement. His current Cowboy Rides Away tour, which concludes with a star-studded affair at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on June 7, is his last – though he's pointedly left open the possibility of select performances down the road.
In its fifth year, Bayou Country Superfest added Friday to its traditional Saturday and Sunday Memorial Day weekend schedule in order to feature Strait. On a bill with Reba McEntire and opener Chris Young, he drew what appeared to be one of the largest crowds in the festival's history.
Strait is an icon of country music in general, and Texas music specifically. If Willie Nelson is the genial, stoned hippie outlaw and Lyle Lovett the sly, crooked-smile subversive, Strait stands tall as the Lone Star State's gentleman cowboy. He doesn't break a sweat, not even on a warm night in Death Valley.
He stands in sharp contrast to the weekend's other, considerably younger Bayou Country Superfest headliners. He does not flirt with hip-hop or speakers that go boom-boom. He does not sing over distorted, hard rock guitars or Van Halen-esque drums. He doesn't wear baseball caps backward or spray beer on fans or pretend it's Spring Break 365 days a year. His lyrics do not command girls to act like strippers, or plot to get them drunk.
In place of such coarseness, he embraces a more subtle, courtly form of courtship, expressed in plain-spoken songs graced by fiddle and pedal steel. His voice is of limited range, but warm and approachable, and he is a master at teasing emotion from it. He makes good songs even better.
Contemporary country is increasingly about arena rock spectacle -- pyrotechnics, flashy stage sets, artsy videos. Strait had no need for such trappings, not even a runway into the crowd. In the dancehalls and honky-tonks of Texas, bands are not there to be stared at. Their purpose is to keep the dance floor full and the beer flowing while providing the soundtrack for the real-life romantic ebb and flow described in their songs.
Thus, Strait's stage attire is codified: Cowboy hat. Starched, button-down shirt. Pressed Wranglers. Fist-sized belt buckle. Boots. At Tiger Stadium, he might even have worn the same hat and shirt he did for an April 2013 show at what was then the New Orleans Arena.
Similarly, the 11 musicians and singers of his Ace in the Hole Band don't look like members of Imagine Dragons. They resemble the people encountered in feed stores, churches and diners in small towns throughout south-central Texas; most of them, as Strait's introductions made clear, are actually from Texas. They remained at their stations, immobile.
Strait, too, rarely strayed from his position. But relative to his modest standards, he was animated. He slapped his acoustic guitar with his right hand as the Ace in the Hole Band played him on with 'Deep in the Heart of Texas.' He made a wave motion during 'River of Love.'
He noticed a small boy, in cowboy hat and jeans, strumming a toy guitar in front of the stage. 'You need a pick,' Strait said, then handed over his. A collective 'awwww' swept through the stadium as the boy, new pick in hand, was shown strumming on the big video screens.
Strait swung into action with 'The Fireman,' followed by 'Check Yes Or No' and 'Ocean Front Property.' He described listening to a demo recording of 'Marina Del Rey' on a cassette tape: 'That's what we used to listen to...sorta like an eight-track.'
Twin fiddles ushered in 'A Fire I Can't Put Out.' 'What a beautiful night this is!' he gushed.
He fast-forwarded to 'That's What Breaking Hearts Do,' a song, co-written with his son Bubba, from his 2013 album 'Love Is Everything.' He followed with another Bubba co-write, the Johnny Cash-like 'Arkansas Dave.'
He knocked off 'How 'Bout Them Cowgirls,' a breezy ode to the fairer sex, then shifted gears for 'I Saw God Today,' a love song for a future cowgirl. The protagonist's face is 'pushed up against the nursery glass, she's sleeping like a rock, my name on her wrist, wearing tiny pink socks.' Skill and sincerity are necessary to pull off such a scene without it sinking under the weight of its own sentimentality. Strait has both, in abundance.
Such skills came in handy again when he followed 'Drinkin' Man' – 'have you ever woken up in the morning and said, 'Man, I ain't never doing that again?'' – with 'I Believe,' a memorial to the '26 angels' of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.
'The Chair' was masterful. More ballads may have been sung on Friday night than in all previous years of Bayou Country Superfest combined.
In the encore, the latter-day 'Same Kind of Crazy' and 'Run' served as lesser bookends to the simple, classic 'All My Ex's Live in Texas' – which very much sounded like a country song from another era. The musicians took short solos in a cover of Johnny Cash's 'Folsom Prison Blues.' That Reba McEntire didn't return for a duet was a missed opportunity.
Strait didn't overplay the impending conclusion of his touring career, but neither did he ignore it. Perhaps as a hedge against overwhelming emotion, he invited the audience to the final blow-out in Arlington as if it were a barbecue for friends, not the already sold-out stadium finale of his farewell tour.
Lyrically, he's been winding down for a while. 'Troubadour,' the title track of his 2008 album, described still feeling like a young troubadour inside, even as a mirror reflects the face of an old troubadour.
He was an old soul even as a young man. He released 'The Cowboy Rides Away' in 1985. Nearly 30 years later, it is the theme for his retirement tour: 'The last goodbye's the hardest one to say/And this is where the cowboy rides away.'
In the 1980s, his traditionalist tendencies ran counter to the prevailing winds of country pop and rhinestone cowboy cheese. Traditional country, thanks to Strait, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson and other like-minded artists, became country's dominant sound. It no longer is, as the final two nights of the Bayou Country Superfest attest.
But music tends to move in cycles. A new traditionalist movement will likely blossom one day as a reaction to current trends. And Strait may still be part of it. In 'I'll Always Remember You,' his salute to fans, he sang, 'I'm not sayin' I'm through by any means/Cause there's still things that I want to say and do.'
So maybe the cowboy isn't riding away forever. Maybe it's farewell for now.
George Strait's set list, Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge, May
• 1. The Fireman
• 2. Check Yes or No
• 3. Ocean Front Property
• 4. Marina Del Rey
• 5. Blame It on Mexico
• 6. A Fire I Can't Put Out
• 7. Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her
• 8. That's What Breaking Hearts Do
• 9. Arkansas Dave
• 10. You Look So Good in Love
• 11. Amarillo by Morning
• 12. Here for a Good Time
• 13. When Did You Stop Loving Me?
• 14. River of Love
• 15. How 'Bout Them Cowgirls
• 16. I Saw God Today
• 17. I Can Still Make Cheyenne
• 18. Drinkin' Man
• 19. I Believe
• 20. Give It Away
• 21. Lead On
• 22. Give It All We Got Tonight
• 23. The Chair
• 24. I Got a Car
• 25. I'll Always Remember You
• 26. The Troubadour
• 27. Unwound
• 28. Same Kind of Crazy
• 29. All My Ex's Live in Texas
• 30. Run
• 31. Folsom Prison Blues
• 32. Cowboy Rides Away
George Strait delivers, and fans eat it up
The love fest started before George Strait even got on stage.
The roar from the packed Bridgestone Arena crowd started building the second Strait was spotted on the arena floor and built to a near deafening crescendo as he scrambled up on the stage in the middle of the floor. The house lights came up as Strait smiled, took a slow victory stroll around the stage and gently pumped his fists.
'I hope y'all don't have anywhere to go anytime soon because we have a lot of songs to play for you,' he said to more roars, 'some old songs … and a few surprises.'
Strait delivered on all the above, turning in 34 songs in two hours and 20 minutes — and delivering duets with fellow country stars Eric Church and Kenny Chesney.
After more than 30 years in the business, Strait didn't even get to half of the 60 country radio chart-toppers in his career. And the old songs stretched all the way back to his first album, released in 1981, when Strait sang 'Blame it on Mexico' five songs in to the show.
As usual, Strait had no special effects, no pyro, little video — he just moved around the stage and sang his songs, to adoring fans.
And if they loved him, Strait loved 'em right back. After he finished several of the songs, Strait, with the house lights on, would smile and point and slowly turn a full circle, as if he were trying to memorize each fan's face before the show ended.
'The old cowboy's riding away — but not really,' he said after his second song. 'I'll still be around, trust me.'
As he has on most tour stops, Strait got his opening act — Sheryl Crow for the Nashville show — to come out and do a couple of songs with him. Strait and Crow did 'Here for a Good Time' and 'When Did You Stop Loving Me'
Unlike other cities, Strait pulled a couple of fellow superstars to do one song each with him. Church, in sunglasses but no ballcap, was all smiles and excitement when he did 'Cowboys Like Us' about halfway through the show. Chesney, in ballcap and white T-shirt, came out eight songs later to sing 'Amarillo By Morning' with Strait.