Fans pack pavillion for George Strait’s “Cowboy Rides Away” tour

Justin San Diego

Country music star performs final Bay Area show

A sold-out crowd rose to its feet and cheered as the ultimate cowboy took the stage in San Jose at the SAP Center on Jan. 30.

This will be one of George Strait’s last concerts; but he is not retiring yet, as he plans to still record music.

           The 71-year-old musician began his career in 1981 with the album “Strait Country,” and has released an album almost every year since then.

It may be for the best that Strait will no longer be touring since he appeared to be lacking energy and stage presence.

He performed an expanded 30-song set list full of mellow performances that encouraged audience members to take a catnap or leave their seats to get a beer.

“He was much more energetic when he was younger and smiled more,” said Robert Collins, 42, engineer. “He’s starting to show his age, but he’s still one of the greatest country singers alive.”

The show opened with the rambunctious oldie hit “The Fireman,” and closed with his newer song “The Cowboy Rides Away,” which is also the name of the current tour.

The stage was placed in the center of the stadium with no set pieces or decorations, but surrounded by 360 degrees of fans.

Looking like a typical conservative parent, Strait wore an off-white dress shirt, faded blue jeans and a black cowboy hat.

It seemed many of his most popular songs, such as “Carried Away,” “The Best Day” and “Write This Down” were excluded from the show.

Strait took a break from performing to honor some organizations and reward a disabled veteran with a new house.

A highlight of the show was when Martina McBride, who was an opening act, joined Strait on stage to perform the 1960s classic “Jackson.”

“The best parts of the show for me are when George talks to the audience and makes you aware he is down-home as you are,” said Christine Williams, 28, receptionist. “He doesn’t come off as a millionaire superstar; his songs relate to my life.”

McBride has some of the best vocals in country music, but she could have been a better performer.

She performed for about an hour, and cut out some of her best hits, such as “Concrete Angel” and “How Far.”

The set opened with the rowdy single “When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues” and closed with the empowering anthems, “A Broken Wing” and “Independence Day.”

McBride also did a cover of the 1972 hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” and then revealed she will have a new album out April 8 that will have cover songs from Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley and more.

This farewell tour of Strait possibly marks the dying out of traditional country music.

“George is the last of a dying breed of traditional country artist that is still performing today,” said Shelly Dunham, 25, college student.

More and more country acts are expected to be capable of crossing over into pop music. Songs from Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Hunter Hayes and more can be heard on pop radio.

Keith Urban and Blake Shelton are both on reality shows while Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw have both collaborated with rapper Nelly.

Strait will perform a few shows each month before his last show on June 7 in Arlington, Texas. It will feature opening acts including Alan Jackson, Faith Hill and Kenny Chesney, ensuring the cowboy will go out with a bang.