When Brisbane, Australia native Phamie Seils found out that George Strait was serious about this tour being his last, she knew she had to make it to America for at least one show of his Cowboy Rides Away tour.
Undeterred by time and distance, she packed her bags, bought a ticket and traveled over 7,300 miles to the Tacoma Dome to see the King of Country do his thing. When asked what it meant for her to be there, to see her hero in the flesh, her eyes misted over and she quietly choked out the single word “awesome.”
“Awesome” just about sums it up really. If this is how Strait intends to go out, then I think it is safe to say that he’s making the most of the time he has left. Strutting out from the shadows in a light plaid shirt, and a pair of tight blue jeans with a glinting silver belt-buckle set square in the middle and black Resistol hat perched atop his head, he looked every bit the musician that we’ve come to know and love over the years.
The stage setup he made his way toward was odd by Tacoma Dome standards as it was placed right in the middle of the venue with the crowd on all sides. Through the night the singer alternated between four different microphones to make sure that everyone was given a good view several times.
Beginning with the opening number, a raucous take on his 1985 hit single “The Fireman,” Strait and his Ace in the Hole Band performed more than thirty cuts from one of country music's most venerated catalogs. For nearly two and a half hours, the Texas-native held the packed arena crowd in the palm of his hand. They sang in unison during “Amarillo By Morning” and “All My Exes Live In Texas." They teared up during “I Believe” and “I’ll Always Remember You.” They even square-danced during a cover of the Johnny Cash classic “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Though 61-years old at this point, and with the patches of gray and the slight wrinkles to prove it, Strait sounded tremendous. The voice that powered 60 of his songs to number one on the charts hasn’t slipped one bit. His band was sharp as a tack as well, and there wasn’t a missed cue or a fluffed note all evening.
Those keeping score may have noticed that the set list on this tour hasn’t deviated that much from town to town, but what Strait sacrifices in surprise he more than makes up for in acumen. The show is run like a well-oiled machine, with a truly great cross-section of decade-spanning hits and a couple of unexpected covers.
The marks were hit beautifully all night long, but none so much as when Strait surprised Spokane-area veteran Chris Atkins and his wife Lacy with keys to a brand new home. It was a touching gesture, one that Strait does at every show, and the crowd showed their appreciation and admiration by showering the couple with some of the loudest cheers of the evening.
George Strait has been a constant in country music since the early 1980s. It’s almost impossible to envision a world where he doesn’t choose to share his music with a live crowd anymore. But if he’s really willing to walk away, he certainly went out with style at the Tacoma Dome.
When asked at the end of the night if the trip across the Pacific Ocean to see a man play his music had been worth it, Phamie Seils captured the full mood of everyone in attendance by flashing a Texas-sized grin and shouting, “Aw, hell yeah!” She hadn’t seen God that day, but as a fan of the man who sang he did, she had seen something pretty close.