George Strait Gives Nashville Crowd a Memorable Goodbye

Eric Church, Kenny Chesney Make Surprise Appearances During the Cowboy Rides Away Tour

George Strait may not actually hang his hat in Tennessee, but that didn’t stop the crowd from singing every word to “All My Ex’s Live in Texas” and many more hits during his sold-out show at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Friday night (March 21).

Strait is in the home stretch of his final tour, and he made several references to the impending Dallas concert in June, where the cowboy will indeed ride away. But in the first hour of the Nashville show, Strait was more content to look back, delivering sturdy material like “The Fireman,” “Check Yes or No,” “Ocean Front Property,” “Marina Del Rey”(which he said he learned from a cassette demo), “Blame It on Mexico,” “A Fire I Can’t Put Out” and “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her.”

If it weren’t for all the cell phones, you’d think it was 1996.

After a couple of newer songs, like “That’s What Breaking Hearts Do” and “Arkansas Dave,” he dipped back into the well for “Here for a Good Time,” “When Did You Stop Loving Me” and “River of Love.” One of my personal favorites, “You Look So Good in Love,” remains a quintessential Strait song — a foolish character who let love go, a soaring chorus and an undeniable country twist. Yes, she does look good in love, but she doesn’t love you, sucker.

After a few more recent tunes, a guest appearance by Eric Church on “Cowboys Like Us” and a generous home giveaway for a wounded veteran, Strait kept the momentum going with three more classics: “Give It Away,” “Fool-Hearted Memory” and “Lead On.” To wild applause, he also let Kenny Chesney sing a few lines of “Amarillo by Morning.”

Strait doesn’t give a lot of attention to special effects — I’ve seen better graphics used on game shows — but that’s not what this tour is about. The focus in squarely on the music, which went on well past 11 p.m. With more hits and unexpected covers, clearly he decided to give it all he’s got.

Sheryl Crow opened the concert with a blend of pop hits like “Picture” and country songs like “Calling Me When You’re Lonely.”

She described the opportunity to be a part of Strait’s last tour one of the highest-ranking moments of her career. I would have to say the same thing.

Craig Shelburne has been writing for CMT.com since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.