George Strait Triumphantly Returns To RodeoHouston

The King of Country himself
The King of Country himself Photo by Jack Gorman
George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen
NRG Stadium
March 17, 2019

About an hour into his performance Sunday night, George Strait had a question for the record crowd of 80,108 people: "Are y'all ready to go home yet?"

The resounding NO that reverberated through NRG Stadium was so loud and so emphatic that we could feel the floor rumble beneath our feet.

"Good," Strait said with a smile. "Me neither." And with that, he and the Ace in the Hole Band launched into "Ocean Front Property," the first single from Strait's 1987 album of the same name.

On the iconic track, the King of Country tells a lover that he won't miss her, that she won't consume his thoughts and that he won't take her back if she leaves him. Now if you'll buy that, he continues, I've got some ocean front property in Arizona (for sale).

Returning to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for the first time since 2013, Strait and his band treated fans to nearly two hours' worth of hits, covers and a few newer tracks to close out this year's festivities.

The set began with two of the country legend's greatest hits - "Write This Down" and "I Can Still Make Cheyenne" - before he segued into a lesser known cut from 2015's Cold Beer Conversation, "Take Me To Texas."

At that point, the stadium-wide singalong came to an end. The dancing, however, continued. Because even Strait's less consequential tunes proved to be more than pleasant enough for his longtime fans. In fact, King George has generated so much good will over the years that he was able to shamelessly plug his own tequila company, and no one seemed to mind.

(A cursory Google search revealed mostly positive reviews of Código, for what it's worth.)

Strait's signature charm was in full swing during Sunday night's concert. He addressed the crowd a handful of times throughout the evening, and fans eagerly devoured every anecdote he had to share. Leading into a cover of Merle Haggard's "You Take Me For Granted," he smiled and said, "His wife at the time, Miss Leona Williams... I think she wrote it about him, but he sang it about her."

Perhaps the most heartfelt moment of the evening came when Strait brought his grandson Harvey onstage to help him sing "God and Country Music." The boy, who couldn't have been more than 4 or 5 years old, stood frozen for most of the song, staring out at the vastness of NRG Stadium. He finally chimed in during the final chorus, and the crowd erupted with cheers.

"Not a bad place to start your singing career, huh?" Strait chuckled as the boy was escorted off the stage.

Sunday was King George's 30th RodeoHouston performance, and it set the attendance record for any event ever held inside NRG Stadium. Worth noting: NRG Stadium has hosted the Super Bowl twice. Six years removed from his last Houston visit, Strait's legend couldn't have been in better standing for his return. His music was timeless half a decade ago, and it has only gotten better with age.

As is tradition, Strait ended his set with "The Cowboy Rides Away." But this time, Houston fans were left with the hope that he won't ride quite as far as he did last time before turning his horse around and making his way back to the Bayou City. We did take his saddle, after all.

click to enlarge Lyle Lovett (center) and Robert Earl Keen (behind and to the right) - PHOTO BY JACK GORMAN
Lyle Lovett (center) and Robert Earl Keen (behind and to the right)
Photo by Jack Gorman
Before Strait took the stage, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen warmed the crowd up for the main event. The two Texas icons mostly split their set, surrounded by a plethora of talented musicians, and they ended their performance with a moving duet of "Front Porch Song."

It isn't every day that three of Texas' most renowned country legends share a stage. Then again, the last night of RodeoHouston is always an event. In that respect, you could say that Sunday was just another closing night for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Now if you'll buy that...

Write This Down
I Can Still Make Cheyenne
Take Me To Texas
I Saw God Today
Here For A Good Time
She'll Leave You With A Smile
You Take Me For Granted (Merle Haggard cover)
Are The Good Times Really Over (Merle Haggard cover)
Cold Beer Conversation
Check Yes Or No
Arkansas Dave
Give It Away
Baby Blue
Every Little Honky Tonk Bar
Kicked Outta Country
Ocean Front Property
Old Violin
The Weight Of The Badge
God And Country Music
Amarillo By Morning
The Chair
The Fireman
I'll Always Remember You
All My Ex's Live in Texas
I Cross My Heart
You Wreck Me (Tom Petty cover)
The Cowboy Rides Away
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever