By Chuck Cox

Special Contributor

George Strait

George Strait plays for more than 70,000 of his closest friends on Saturday night at the Alamodome. (Photo: Misty Clack)

In the span of the last two weeks, country music icon George Strait celebrated his 61st birthday, became the first artist in any genre to have 60 No. 1 singles, and played the Alamodome on Saturday night in front of 73,806 fans to wrap up the first leg of his farewell “The Cowboy Rides Away Tour.” Oh yeah, his Spurs also clinched their fifth trip to the NBA Finals.

It wasn’t long into the show when the undisputed “King of Country” said, “How about them Spurs, now?” He then led the crowd in a quick chant of “Go, Spurs, Go.” Just like the title of the first song Strait played on Saturday night, he was there for a good time. And, boy, did he get one. As did the enormous crowd, which was treated to an incredible 33-song set list that included career-defining hits, some stuff of his new Love Is Everything album, and some cool covers. Two of those covers he did with Martina McBride, who has opened the whole tour for him. They did the classics “Jackson” and “Golden Ring.” As McBride was leaving the rotating stage, Strait said, “Lucky me, huh?”

Strait was definitely in his element playing for his hometown fans. “I’ve been thinking about this show all month long, and I have to admit, I was a little nervous. But I’m not anymore.”  Strait pulled out all of the musical stops for what could have been his last show ever at the Alamodome. He dug deep into the catalogue with songs like “Blame it On Mexico,” “Her Goodbye Hit Me in the Heart,” and “80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper,” and did most of the biggies, like “The Fireman,” “Marina Del Rey,” “The Chair,” “Amarillo By Morning,” “All My Exes Live in Texas,” “Unwound,” and, of course, “The Cowboy Rides Away.”

Not just because it was the biggest crowd I have ever seen at a concert, but Saturday’s show was truly something special to be a part of. I also lived in San Antone for a couple of years, so the city is near and dear to my heart. I was so glad I made the trip down. The fact the show sold in six minutes was pretty strong evidence I wasn’t alone in feeling that it was not a show to be missed.

In addition to Strait, I also got to see McBride, Miranda Lambert, and the Quebe Sisters Band as part of the six-hour extravaganza. Lambert was the only one on the bill I had never seen before, and she was absolutely spectacular. Lambert, who is from Lindale, near Tyler, did not seem fazed at all by playing for such an enormous crowd in the final slot before King George. As usual, McBride and the Quebe Sisters were also great.

Strait has always known how to put on an event. All three times I had seen him before Saturday, it was a huge bill at a huge stadium. I saw him twice at Texas Stadium — in 1995 and 1999 — and then again in 2009 to open Cowboys Stadium. All of them were great, but the 1999 show was especially huge with Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, Jo Dee Messina, Mark Wills, and Asleep at the Wheel.

I’m pretty sure I’ll catch another Strait show on the second leg of the tour. And pretty much any time he decides to do a one-off show here and there down the road, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be there, too. There’s never been another artist like Strait. And I can’t imagine there ever will be again.

It’s a big week for shows for me. Check back to read my thoughts on Fleetwood Mac (Tuesday), Eisley (Thursday), and the Dan Band (Friday).

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