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George Strait & Reba End Tour on a High Note in Louisville
Two of the biggest names in country music joined forces for one of the most highly anticipated concert tours of the year, and the "George Strait & Reba Twang Tour" wrapped up right here in Louisville on April 9. "The King of Country" shot out of the gate with his first release, Unwound, 30 years ago this spring and during these past three decades has lassoed nearly 60 #1 singles and sold almost 70 million albums. When the legend hit the square stage positioned in the center of the KFC Yum! Center floor, decked out in a black cowboy hat, a plaid blue western shirt, and his trademark Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots, he picked up his personalized guitar, strapped it on and strummed away, crooning a whopping 31 of his biggest hits in nearly two solid hours. Performing in-the-round, Strait wowed the sell-out crowd with two tunes as he stood on one side of the stage before rotating to the next adjacent side of the stage for two more tunes, constantly rotating to the next adjacent side of the stage for two additional tunes throughout the entire evening. Never one to rely on glitz and glamour, "The King of Country" had the crowd on its feet, eating out of the palm of his hand as he showcased what fans came to hear — pure country music. Although his voice waned at times, any shortcomings were instantly forgiven as he belted out classics "Ocean Front Property," "The Fireman," "Check Yes or No," "Amarillo By Morning," and "The Chair," as well as recent hits "I Saw God Today," "Give It Away," "Twang" and "Living for the Night." Before taking his wife Norma's hand to head home to Texas and retire from touring for the year, Strait performed a memorable encore including "Heartland," "All My Ex's Live in Texas," and a rousing cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," closing the night and the tour with the appropriately titled "The Cowboy Rides Away."
When it comes to showmanship, Reba McEntire has historically been known for a Broadway-style stage production and has been at the top of the country game, but in recent years, it has been refreshing to see that "The Queen of Country" has taken notes from her tour mate and left the glitz and glamour at home and focused more on her music than theatrics. The energetic red-headed fireball has mastered music, movies, television, and even Broadway and she displayed the culmination of these talents during her ninety-minute set. With her particular ability to stretch a single syllable of a lyric into several with her native Oklahoma twang, McEntire was in tip-top shape as she took fans through a nearly flawless musical journey which included hits "Can't Even Get the Blues," "Is There Life Out There," "Consider Me Gone," "For My Broken Heart," "Why Haven't I Heard From You," and her latest chart-topper, "Turn On the Radio." Dressed modestly in a black, sequined blouse, black leggings, and black knee-high suede boots, the newest member of the Country Music Hall of Fame brought the house down as she belted out her award-winning duet "Does He Love You" with country traditionalist Lee Ann Womack. Near the end of her show, comic relief was running rampant as McEntire's Reba co-star Melissa Peterman (who played Barbara Jean, the new wife of Reba's ex-husband Brock) stormed the stage donning a fringed George Strait T-shirt and offered nearly 10 minutes of banter with her favorite leading lady, even joining her pal to sing their sitcom's theme song, "I'm a Survivor." Soon after McEntire took her bows and thanked her adoring fans for a memorable night in Kentucky, she returned in true Reba McEntire fashion for her one-song encore as she entered the arena in a small taxi cab and emerged wearing a scarlet sequined evening gown to perform probably her most requested number, "Fancy."
When the caliber of headlining acts George Strait and Reba McEntire is on the concert bill, it takes a brave, gutsy, and talented performer to accept the position as the opening act, but Lee Ann Womack grabbed the bull by the horns and lived up to the daunting task at hand. Although she has not enjoyed radio success in recent years, fans seemed ecstatic to hear the songbird professionally deliver a 30-minute set including songs like "Ashes By Now," "I'll Think of a Reason Later," "I May Hate Myself in the Morning," and her crossover inspirational anthem, "I Hope You Dance." From the crowd's reception, it's obvious that there's still room and desire for new Lee Ann Womack music on radio airwaves.