After a career spanning more than 30 years that has included a record 60 No. 1 hits, George Strait, 61, has said he will retire when his current tour ends in June.
But it sure didn’t feel like Strait was retiring Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome, when he wowed a sold-out crowd with a masterful, career-spanning set that lasted well over two hours and touched on some of his biggest hits.
So let’s call George Strait’s “The Cowboy Rides Away” tour a victory lap for the man known as the King of Country.
With a burst of honky-tonk energy, Strait used “The Fireman” to get things rolling from a square stage set in the middle of the arena that provided a pretty good view from all angles. Every two songs, Strait moved to a different side of the stage, giving fans a chance to connect — and snap a few Instagram photos.
The crowd was still standing in reverence a few songs in when Strait got to his monster hit “Ocean Front Property,” the title track to his 1986 No. 1 album. He pulled the song off with pitch-perfect aplomb and the sort of easy showmanship that only a true natural possesses. The tune sparked the first of many pangs of regret for the day Strait no longer tours for a living.
Strait and his nimble band danced back and forth throughout his intimidatingly deep discography, stringing together his son Bubba’s whimsical “Arkansas Dave” (2009) and the country-rock guitar blast of “Here For a Good Time” (2011) with “When Did You Stop Loving Me?,” a cowboy’s lament from 1992’s “Pure Country.”
The show highlighted Strait’s impressive consistency throughout his career and his ability to toe the line as a neotraditionalist who has a keen ear for radio-friendly hits. Even when the material isn’t stellar, like on Strait’s new single “I Got a Car,” his authenticity shines through and manages to elevate it.
After a marathon 27-song set, Strait came back out for a five-song encore, including “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” and an extended version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” that included a solo for each member of the band.
The last goodbye, as his final song “The Cowboy Rides Away” asserted, really was the hardest to say.