Sunday, August 09, 2009

Yeah, he's still got it...

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So I don't know if all of you remember, but that George Strait show at Reliant Stadium I mentioned yesterday? I was there, and like I say, the man still has what it takes.
His opening acts were Blake Shelton and Sugarland, along with Julianne Hough. We got in a bit later than we thought we would and unfortunately missed most of Julianne Hough, but we saw Blake Shelton and Sugarland in their entirety, both of whom are really good live. I must admit there's still a lot of Sugarland's records that I don't care for that much, but the woman's still got a hell of a voice. Everytime the video cameras landed on Kristian Bush's face, though, I thought of his general jackassery that's been commented on here before. It didn't so much detract from my enjoyment of their set, but I did think of how much better off Jennifer Nettles would be if she went solo. Kristian Bush seems by and large to be more of a stage prop anyway, although he made for a decent stand in for Bon Jovi on "Who Says You Can't Go Home." The highlight of their set, as I thought it would be, was "Stay." I got a kick out of what happened during this and certain other songs through the evening. You know how folks used to light their lighters during songs? Well, now they're doing video and pictures with cell phones. Same effect, just different colored lighting. Lol....but back to the show, I don't know how Jennifer Nettles pulls that song off every night. She really gets into it, just like she did on the video, although she didn't break down and cry like she did on the video. I suppose you could say that's the mark of a professional.
Blake Shelton is really engaging on stage, and like Jennifer Nettles, he's the furthest thing from a studio creation. He sounds pretty much exactly the same on stage as he does on cd. I got a kick out of his introduction to "Some Beach." He was talking about the traffic, as the first verse of that song does, and no doubt we all could relate that particular evening; with the way the Loop 610 is set up in Houston, as you're coming from the east side, you have to get over two or three lanes to get off there at Kirby and turn right, and traffic was backing up like crazy in those lanes and the feeder road. And I had been hearing about his rendition of the jingle, but that, just has to be seen to be appreciated. It was just hilarious. I kinda had an idea it was coming with the introduction, where he said he was about to sing something really emotional that meant a lot to him, but it was still a great move.
And what to say about George that hasn't been said before? He was amazing. I remember the lights going down and the crowd raising the roof as the lights went down and he and the band took the stage. Every now and then I think of how I'd like to have seen him in the mid-to-late 1980s when he was more or less the hottest thing in Nashville, but now that I think about it I wouldn't be surprised if the reaction he gets even now in Texas is the same as it was way back then. And he still sounds great too, even after all these years. He sang a pretty wide selection of songs, with a pretty good chunk of them coming from the last couple of albums -- It Just Comes Natural and Troubadour. I must admit I was surprised at a couple of things, the first being the fact that he only sang one song off the new album that'll be out on Tuesday. I remember when I saw him in Austin in January of '05, he sang a couple songs from Somewhere Down in Texas -- and that album wasn't due out for another five months. Maybe it was just the fact that in that particular venue "Texas" made for the ultimate encore. ;-) But it's ok, because I have never really cared for hearing album cuts before the album comes out. I like to be surprised.
The second was the lack of cover songs. With pretty much every show before that I've seen -- and this was No. 15 -- they usually bring out "There Stands the Glass," "Milk Cow Blues," or "Take Me Back to Tulsa," but none of those showed up in the set. No doubt most of the folks in the audience loved "How 'Bout them Cowgirls," but I'd gladly have traded that or "River of Love" for one of those cover tunes. I've said before that those covers are the highlight of a live Strait show for me. It was admittedly a TINY disappointment, but he and the guys made up for it with the aforementioned surprise....
...after the first song in the encore, "High Tone Woman," the band launched into the drum-and-fiddle introduction to...wait for it...CHEROKEE MAIDEN! It has literally been YEARS since I've heard George and the Aces play that live. If I remember correctly the last time that song made it into the set was in the second year of the festival tours in 1999, at Houston's Rice Stadium. My uncle commented that probably no one else in the audience knew that song; I'd tend to agree with that, but I did see the guy in the seat next to us singing along. I don't know if he was the only other one besides us that knew it, but I'd bet that most didn't know it. At any rate, it was AWESOME to hear that song again, and "Folsom Prison Blues" is always a treat as well.
So that's 15 George Strait shows I've seen. I don't know if he'll be around for 15 more, but if he is you can bet your ass I'll be there.