George Strait Comes Full Circle With Gruene Hall Homecoming
On the same day that he announced a special run of shows in Las Vegas for 2017, George Strait played a hole-in-the-wall dancehall — albeit a famous one — in his home state. Wednesday night's (Nov. 16) show was a private party to celebrate the release of Strait Out of the Box: Part 2 (Nov. 18), a 56-track collection of music spanning the last 20 years of Strait's releases — he released Part 1 in 1996 — which includes 26 No. 1 singles and two new tracks. Strait wanted to do it right, and that meant coming home to Gruene Hall.
It was the first time he'd taken the storied Texas stage in 34 years, and as he sipped an icy Miller Lite, he marveled at the fact that nothing has really changed since 1982. That excludes technology, of course, as iPhones helped light a show that thousands more country music fans around the world tuned in via livestream to witness.
It was a solid blend of old and new. Strait and his mostly-local Ace in the Hole band opened with 2011's "Here for a Good Time," and the singer recalled his past experiences on the stage in between "The Fireman," "Amarillo by Morning," "The Chair," "Troubadour," "Take Me to Texas" and "I Can Still Make Cheyenne," plus "Kicked Outta Country" and “You Gotta Go Through Hell," the two new songs on SOTB2, which are Strait co-writes.
After a rowdy encore of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," his own "All My Ex's Live in Texas" and "The Cowboy Rides Away," Strait left the stage the same way he entered, through the men's restroom and through a parted sea of industry persons with their arms outstretched for handshakes.
Though George felt right at home at Gruene Hall, as if he'd transported himself right back to the days of $1 concert tickets, the difference between 1982 and 2016 was obvious to everyone else. This time, fans lined the building from the outside, clamoring to the dusty screen windows of the rickety old dancehall just hoping to catch a glimpse of the megastar doing his thing. It was one of the rare nights that some of the most notable names in Texas country music could just be faces in the crowd, with Cory Morrow, Kyle Park and Aaron Watson all taking in the show, in addition to Strait labelmate Jon Pardi. And everyone had goosebumps from first note to the last tip of Strait's black hat.
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