Setting it Strait 

STRAIT: Smooth.
  • STRAIT: Smooth.

George Strait
Alltel Arena
Jan. 21

Country music lovers have long had to share George Strait with some of us middle-of-the-road pop music fans who appreciate a great voice when we hear it. Strait, who is as pure country as it gets, drew another record crowd to Alltel Arena on Saturday, an audience made up equally of yahoos in cowboy hats, T-shirts and tattered jeans and the regulars in button downs and khakis.

Strait broke his own record he set in 2004 for the largest attendance ever at Alltel, packing in 18,004 on Saturday while headlining a show with Nashville newcomer and fellow Texan Miranda Lambert and Arkansas native Tracy Lawrence. While Lambert is being called Nashville’s next big thing, and Lawrence has a following, we doubt either two added a whole lot to the turnout that Strait wouldn’t have drawn by himself.

Saturday night’s show, set up “in the round” (well, specifically, it was “in the square” with each performers’ band members in a circle on the square stage), was jump-started by the vivacious Lambert, who reminded us of the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines in both appearance and singing style. Donning a tight camo top and jeans, she cranked up her indifferent seven-song set with two closing good songs that were much more rocking than typical country: “Hillbilly Highway” and her current single, “Kerosene.”

Strait sang 27 songs, including three in an encore — he had 53 No. 1 hits from a two-decade career to choose from — and gave his fans most of their favorites, including oldies “Amarillo by Morning” and “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?” He showed off a couple of new ones, including “Somewhere Down in Texas.” And he sang some Merle Haggard, a couple of Bob Wills classics, and some George Jones.

Though maybe not the singer he was in the late 1980s, Strait never wavered, and never quit grinning. As for Lambert’s best stuff, she’s part of that Nashville-produced crowd, like Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban, doing rock or pop and calling it country.

The sound from the stage setup left a lot to be desired, especially for Lambert and Lawrence. Lawrence was betrayed by a raspy voice and some popping mikes, to boot. The sound men got the decibel level right by the headline act.

— By Jim Harris


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