STRAIT TO THE HEART OF RICHMOND
She was standing in front of us in the concession line at the Richmond Coliseum holding an armful of George Strait T-shirts. My friend and I were discussing if we’d be able to see the stage from our seats when she whirled around with a big grin on her face and exclaimed, “There’s NO bad seat at a George Strait Concert! The stage is set up right in the middle so everyone can see!” I asked where her seat was located. She replied that she had gotten a floor seat through George’s Fan Club and had driven all the way from Illinois. She laughed when she saw the look of surprise on my face. She continued to shock me by saying this was her 51st George Strait concert. Wow! This was definitely a devoted fan! She’s been to see him as many times as he’s had number one hits (50) and was about to see him one more time.
We took our seats and I scanned the crowd – young and old, families and couples, many decked out in cowboy hats, jeans and boots to see “King George” and his Ace in the Hole band. You could feel the excitement mounting.
The first to take the stage was Sarah Johns, an up and comer from Nashville who got her start singing in church and was encouraged to head to Nashville to pursue her dreams. She did a nice cover of Patsy Cline’s “She’s Got You” as well as Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishing in the Dark.” She introduced her new single “He Hates Me” from her debut CD – “Big Love in a Small Town.”
Next up was a familiar favorite of mine – Little Big Town. They are a very energetic group who moves and works the entire stage, always involving the crowd. I was a bit surprised by the somewhat subdued audience response. There were scattered groups here and there (myself included) who were on their feet singing and dancing along but for the most part folks stayed in their seats, even people in the floor section, which is known for being “a happening place.” I thought to myself, “Uh oh… this is a tough crowd.” From what I could tell, it didn’t seem to dampen Little Big Town’s enthusiasm or performance. They opened with “I’m With The Band” and went on to sing a mix of their hits “A Little More You,” “Good As Gone,” “Bring It On Home” with fresh songs “Fine Line” and “Novocain” from their new CD “A Place To Land.” Their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” seemed to be a crowd pleaser. Richmond Coliseum came alive when the song “Boondocks” was played. By the time they were done Little Big Town had won some fans as I heard people around me saying, “That was awesome!” “They were great!”
There was an intermission between performers and I had an opportunity to meet briefly with Little Big Town and say “Hello.” They are such a gracious group of young people and very excited to be touring with the great George Strait, reaching (and hopefully winning) new fans. I was able to give them a copy of the December issue of Culpeper Star Exponent’s In and Around that had their photos in it. They got a kick out of the Reindeer Antler photo and teased me about how I said it wouldn’t be published anywhere.
I headed back into the Coliseum where George was already on stage singing. The stage is set up “in the round” - a microphone is placed in all four corners and George moves to each one in turn singing two songs at each mic. I watched in amazement as George Strait moved from corner to corner, playing his guitar and singing. He didn’t have to do anything else. The fans on the floor and in the stands were on their feet, singing, cheering, clapping and snapping photos. Was this the same crowd? Obviously a man who has 50 number one chart topping hits has a dedicated fan base and they were here in full force tonight.
George sang such hits as: “Ocean Front Property,” “I Hate Everything,” “Run,” “Check Yes or No,” “She’ll Leave You With a Smile,” “I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore,” “Cowboys Like Us,” “Amarillo By Morning,” “Seashores of Old Mexico,” “Write This Down,” “Give It Away,” “It Just Comes Natural,” “I Just Want To Dance With You.”
As the music started for the song “Texas” he apologized, knowing he was in Redskin territory. A video played showing scenes of Texas as he sang. After he finished he said, “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” and the crowd laughed good-naturedly. Of course they loved it. While he sang, “How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls” a camera sought out various cowgirls in the audience to the cheers of fans. When George sang his newest single, “I Saw God Today,” a song about seeing the power of God in the life of a newborn child, you could tell from the crowd’s reaction that this could very well be another number one hit for “King George.”
George Strait is traditional country in his plaid shirt, crisply pressed jeans, boots and cowboy hat. He has a knack for finding songs that connect with his fans and are fun to sing. With a simple humbleness he stands on stage with guitar in hand, serenades his fans and is met with love and devotion. Yes indeed, George Strait won the heart of Richmond.
Published in the Star Exponent 3/21/08 - Strait to the Heart of Richmond