Review: George Strait at Rodeo Houston

George Strait, Ashley McBride
NRG Stadium
March 20 2022

Who is on Mount Rushmore country music?

Instead of calling a HD– Deep Dive Like, let’s go ahead and create one for the living and one for the deceased. For the latter, that could mean Bob Wells, George Jones, Patsy Cline, and Merle Haggard getting spots.

But obviously any “still alive” release must include George Strait: 100 million records sold, the most platinum/multi-platinum album in country music, not to mention 60 singles, the most sold of any artist . Any genre in music history.

Last night was Strait’s 31st performance (another record) at RodeoHouston, and HLSR marked the occasion by just preparing for the concert. No rodeo activities meant sitting on the grounds at NRG Stadium, with a later start at 7 p.m. and Strait putting on a full concert to end the festivities. It’s good to be the king of (country music).

But it was Ashley McBride who took the first stage. The Arkansas native was up to the task of warming the crowds, singing songs like “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” and “Never Wanted to Be That Girl.” But the highlights were a haunting version of the German Brothers’ “Midnight Rider” and a touching version of “Sparrow” from 2020. Start.

Click to enlarge

Ashley McBride was up to the task.

Jack Gorman’s photo

McBride also said some things that were well received by the audience. Unfortunately, the acoustics for which NRG is famous made it difficult to understand.

Then there is George. Like many artists of his age we’ve talked about before, Strait is no stranger to the phenomenon of re-emerging after his “Farewell” tour, as he allegedly retired from touring in 2014. This is actually his second return to HLSR, after a triumphant show in 2019.

After the rodeo aired donkey pins Highlights, bull riding and some snippets from previous musical artists of the year, Strait took the stage. Dressed as modestly as ever: jeans, a button-down shirt, boots, and a black cowboy hat, representing that past era before a country with an interchangeable ball cap took over the radio.

You don’t need any better example of this than the opening song. “Heartland” (from pure country The soundtrack) goes back to a time that undoubtedly resonated with Houston’s Rodeo audience, when “the good guy worked until the day was over.” Not that strait tones are striving for a deeper meaning, specifically. His discography is filled with songs about the classics: failed relationships, lost and regained love, and simple pleasures.

The collection spanned 40+ years in business, all the way to 2019 Honky Tonk Time Machine. And if he used one of his latest songs (“Código”) to pimp that particular tequila brand (a strain of which bears his name), well, at least he preceded it with an announcement that the George Street Corporation was buying a house for the widow of a fallen police officer.

[His Foundation has given $48 million to Gold Star families as well as families of police and firefighters who died in the line of duty.]

Strait briefly mentioned his longevity as a way of introducing “here for a good time,” letting us know he “still exists.” Nice feeling, even if it kind of contrasts with the song itself, which literally talks about someone who “hasn’t been here for a long time”.

Longevity, by the way, is a term you can apply to Strait’s Ace in the Hole Band itself, two of them (steel guitarist Mike Daley and bassist Terry Hill) have been with Strait since the Stoney Ridge days. Fun fact: drummer Bobby Jarzombek previously played with Fate’s Warning and Rob Halford. Life is already a rich tapestry.

Click to enlarge We can't stop here, this is a strait country.  - Picture of Jack Gorman

We can’t stop here, this is a strait country.

Jack Gorman’s photo

Street also threw some love for fellow Texans Waylon Jennings (“Waymore Blues”) and Bruce Robson (“Coiled”). The only non-Lone Star resident honored with a cover was Tom Petty of Florida (“You Wreck Me” during appearance). Petty was a throwback in his own way, so we’ll allow it.

He may seem unhurried on stage (a good way to describe his performance style in general), but Strait doesn’t get away with it, flying through half of the 29-song in about an hour. To be fair, none of his singles were exactly “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” but the guy is still in full command.

The biggest audience reactions were to what to expect: “Marina del Rey,” “Ocean Front Property,” “Chair,” and “All My Xs.” There’s still plenty of love for newer picks like “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar” (although showing the lyrics to the latter ones didn’t hurt).

It was fitting that Strait closed off the main group with “Unwound,” the first single from his debut album, strait country. Some things are eternal: a mother’s love, the itch of a new beard, and the Longhorns’ inability to succeed in the NCAA*. I don’t know if George Strait’s rodeo is important, but it’s close.

personal bias: While doing my pre-work on this I realized that Strait was as much a part of the soundtrack of my life as anyone else, even if I was never what you would call a loyalist. However, “Amarillo By Morning” is one of my all-time favorites.

crowd: leaked. Not to make a fine point on the subject, I was really flattered that there were no chants of “Let’s Go, Brandon” when Strait introduced “Come On Joe” (his actual line was, “Not who – which One.”)

Heard in the crowd: “Like, Michelle is really cool and extroverted, but her husband is a loser. I met him and said, ‘Yeah, this guy is worthless.’ And it’s too bad because Michelle is really cool.” – I was walking behind this couple for five minutes.

Random notebook dump: “This should be another record that has nine songs with the words ‘Honky Tonk’ in the title.”

Make the list
I can still make Cheyenne
Here to have a good time
I saw God today
Check yes or no
I bought a car
Wrapped (Bruce Robson cover)
easy come Easy Go
Ocean Front Feature
Waymore Blues (Waylon Jennings hardcover)
I’m not her cowboy anymore
This is what “breaking hearts” does.
abandoned her
Every little honky tonk bar
Marina del Rey
Badge weight
Amarillo from the morning
the chair
He runs
come on jo
I’ll always remember you

Everything I lived is living in Texas
Take me to Texas
You Wreck Me (Tom Petty cover)
Cowboy riding away

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