One week after he sent a huge crowd home after two songs, George Strait returned to the Sprint Center and validated more than 17,000 fans’ decision to come back and try again. For nearly two hours, he and his Ace in the Hole Band delivered nearly two and a half dozen songs, giving another big, rowdy crowd plenty to sing along to and plenty to cheer about.
Strait was initially scheduled to perform on Feb. 25. After a opening set by Martina McBride, he took the stage with his band, sang a couple of songs, apologized for his hoarse voice and told the near capacity crowd he needed to take a rain check. He promised he’d return seven days later — same time, same place. And he did, bringing McBride along with him again for another one-hour set.
The arena looked slightly less full than it was a week before, but not by much. And most fans were in their seats early to watch McBride show off one of the best voices in country music. She changed up her setlist from the previous week’s, adding a cover of “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden” in with her own hits, like “One Night,” “Baby, I Love You,” “Anyway” and her angel anthems — “Concrete Angels,” “Wild Angel” and “Broken Wing” — before laying down her infernal closer, “Independence Day.”
After a short intermission, Strait, who turns 60 in May, reprised his entrance from a week earlier, and before he sang a note, he appeared fitter and happier. He opened with the same two songs, “Here for a Good Time” and ”I Gotta Get to You,” and his Texas tenor sounded in usual form. His opener is the title track to his latest album, which he visited a few more times (“Love’s Gonna Make it Alright,” “Drinkin’ Man,” “I’ll Always Remember You”).
Otherwise, he delivered a typically solid George Strait show, drawing from a reservoir of songs that includes nearly five dozen No. 1 country hits. Some were famous covers, like “Take Me Back to Tulsa” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” one of four encores. Others were his own fabled songs, like “I Can Still Make Cheyenne,” “Amarillo By Morning,” “The Chair” and “All My Ex’s Live in Texas,” another closer.
The stage was a large square set in the middle of the arena floor, surrounded by fans who bought floor GA tickets. A microphone was situated at each corner, and Strait spent the show walking from one microphone to another, serenading fans in different quadrants of the floor and arena. He strummed an acoustic guitar on about a dozen or so songs.
As usual, his 11-piece band, including two background singers, was polished and precise, almost to the point of tedium. When you’re that good and you’ve played those songs so many times, it’s not hard to make what’s exceptional look easy.
He closed with his valediction, “The Cowboy Rides Away,” a song about the end of romance: “My heart is sinking like a setting sun / Setting on the things I wish I’d done.” But his fans seemed anything but heartbroken as they left the arena. Sometimes pleasure delayed is that much more satisfying.