News and Tribune

March 10, 2014

CONCERT REVIEW: Fitting end to the Strait story

Country legend says farewell to Yum! Center crowd with 34 songs


LOUISVILLE — George Strait is an artist much greater than the sum of his parts.

He has a fine voice for country music, but there are better singers. He uses his guitar as a trusted prop as much as he strums it. He moves around the stage a bit more gingerly than his 61 years would suggest.

He’s also simply one of the best performers of all time in any genre. He was built to play and sing Honky Tonk songs in front of people and he’s one of the most important and influential recording artists in history.

On Saturday, he played for more people than the KFC Yum! Center has ever housed for an event on his farewell “Cowboy Rides Away” tour.

The sold-out crowd saw Strait circle the stage — four microphones were placed at stage corners as he and his flawless Ace in the Hole band played in the round — and march through 34 songs.

He has nearly twice that many No. 1 country hits to pull from, also a record.

The majority of Strait’s songs are pure country — about love or love lost; about drinking or cowboys. There were plenty of highlights — “Fool Hearted Memory” and “Here for a Good Time” to name a couple.

But just like Strait himself, the overarching theme was perfection of craft and consistency.

Strait took the stage in jeans, boots, a button-down shirt and black cowboy hat. There were no frills, save four projection-screen monitors hanging over the stage so even people high up could get a close look at the action.

At least a couple of the four microphones he utilized featured cameras mounted to broadcast only Strait, which was a nice touch for his last rodeo.

Opener Vince Gill, dressed far more flashy than Strait, joined The Cowboy for a couple of songs a third of the way into the set — “Lovebug” and the Strait classic “Amarillo By Morning.”

The rest of the night belonged to Strait. The only real letdown was a rendition of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me” that lacked the punch of the original to open the six-song encore.

Strait quickly knocked thoughts of that remake away with maybe his most recognizable hit, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas.”

A few tunes later and closing with “The Cowboy Rides Away,” Strait was on to the next town, something he’s become used to in his 30-plus years of touring.

If this truly was Strait’s last live show in Louisville, he made all the cowboys and cowgirls in the audience proud.

— Shea Van Hoy is editor of the News and Tribune. Reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter at @sheavanhoy.