For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of George Strait. “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” is the first song I remember hearing on the radio in my grandma’s kitchen when I was five years old. I never got the chance to see him when I was younger so I was heartbroken when he announced his retirement from touring back in 2014. Although he’s finished with full length tours, George Strait still performs a handful of dates each year for us diehard fans. I was fortunate enough to attend his show at the 7000 seat capacity Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida. This was my first time at the venue and I must say the place was not only absolutely gorgeous but the sound was top notch. I can totally understand why some of the largest acts in the world have played this venue. I felt very privileged to be at this intimate show in a beautiful venue just two days before he played to 70,000 people at Raymond James Stadium with Chris Stapleton!
Nashville singer-songwriter, Caitlyn Smith opened the show with a short set of original songs like “High” from her latest release High & Low as well as songs she had written for other people like “Wasting All These Tears” originally written for Cassadee Pope (Hey Monday, The Voice). Her relatable stage presence and humor were the perfect fit for getting us ready for “The King of Country Music,” George Strait.
Just a few minutes later, George Strait’s Ace in the Hole Band took the stage, playing an instrumental version of “Deep in the Heart of Texas” as the king himself graced us with his presence. He warmly greeted us and thanked Caitlyn Smith for opening before diving right into a cover of Rodney Cowell’s “Stars on the Water”.
Over the next two and a half hours, George Strait gave us a career spanning set of some of his biggest hits like “The Fireman” and “Check Yes or No” as well as a few covers of artists who inspired him like Waylon Jennings and Meryl Haggard. He also played one of my all-time favorites “Here For a Good Time,” which brought everyone to their feet. George’s voice sounded just as good as when he started out back in the eighties and every song sounded spot-on thanks to the stellar 11-piece Ace in the Hole Band.
Before I knew it, nearly two hours had went by so I was trying to savor every moment I had of this once in a lifetime experience. When he played his very first hit “Unwound” from his first album “Strait Country,” I knew the show would be coming to an end soon. I’ve been to a lot of shows and I know that 90% of the time the band always comes back for an encore but this man’s goodbye was so sincere that I genuinely thought that he was not coming back. “Thanks a lot, we’ll see ya in Tampa” George said as he and his entire 11-piece Ace in the Hole Band left the stage only to re-emerge to huge applause a few minutes later.
“I wasn’t ready to go either” said George as he returned to the stage to play “Codigo”, a song about his tequila brand “Codigo 1530”. “It’s so good we wrote a song about it.” This had everyone back on their feet singing along to the lyrics that were conveniently displayed behind the band. He followed that up with “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” which brought back those memories of listening to it on my grandma’s kitchen radio when I was young.
Rounding out the encore was a killer cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, “Take Me to Texas”, and “The Cowboy Rides Away” which is without a doubt the best song that could have possibly ended the show.
At 71 years old, George Strait still gave us over two hours of music, playing a total of 31 songs, each sounding just as good or better than the record. He may not tour like he used to but we are lucky to have George Strait around to still do a small run of shows from time to time. This man is a legend and a true entertainer. I feel so honored to be given the chance to see him live and finally check off a big one on my bucket list. Here’s the only photo I took:
George Strait Live Review 2023 by Trevor Bosmans.
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