George Strait, Reba Bring ‘Real Country’ to Austin
Lee Ann Womack said it best when she took the stage on the opening night of George Strait and Reba McEntire's 2011 co-headlining tour Friday night (January 14) at Austin, Texas' Frank Erwin Center: "I hope you like real country music." And that is what the audience got, along with some glittery costumes, a few cowboy hats and a comedienne.
Between the three of them, George, Reba and Lee Ann have more than 90 No. 1 hits. How do you they whittle those down to a three-and-a-half-hour show?
"I never thought I'd have that problem," George says. "It is a good problem to have. And obviously we can't do all of them and I don't even try to. There are certain songs that have never been hits that I still do. After you do an album, you listen to it and you pick your favorites and you try to put them out there. Hopefully, the fans will agree with you that those are their favorites, too. There are also some songs -- because you only get to release three songs off a record -- that get left behind, and that's unfortunate, but we try to do at least some of those out there."
After Lee Ann's promise of the good stuff, she kicked off with 'Buckaroo,' followed by 'Talk to Me' and Hank Thompson's 'San Antonio Rose.' Next up was Buck Owens' 'Down on the Corner of Love,' which she called one of her "all-time favorite songs."
The songstress waved at the eager fans who begged for her attention as she covered the in-the-round stage and sang her hits from 'I May Hate Myself in the Morning' and 'I'll Think of a Reason Later' to 'I Hope You Dance.' Lee Ann left the stage to a standing ovation following the conclusion of 'Ashes By Now.'
"We're going to take you on a journey, doing some of older songs and some of the newer ones, too," Reba promised the crowd. And that she did, as 'Strange' led into 'The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia' and 'Is There Life Out There.'
"Here are some songs, thanks to y'all became No. 1 records for us," the superstar explained before launching into 'Somebody Should Leave,' 'My Broken Heart' and 'Does He Love You,' with Lee Ann filling in on the Linda Davis' part, which led to a somewhat of a sing-off in the center of the stage.
The mood slowed down a bit when the Oklahoma-native grabbed a stool and opened up about her father. "My daddy is a three-time world champion steer roper and he spent most of his time in the rodeo," she explained. "I never understood him very much. I would hear stories of how he was raised and that helped me understand why he was never affectionate to us. We knew he loved us, he just had a different way of showing it." And without another word, she started into 'The Greatest Man I Never Knew,' which earned her a standing ovation.
Perhaps the most hilarious moment of the evening came next, when an "unexpected" guest joined Reba onstage. "2001 was a very fun year," Reba was saying. "I got to go to New York to be in 'Annie Get Your Gun' for six months and then in the fall, I went to L.A. and started 'Reba,' that was an experience ..." Without further ado, 'Reba' co-star Melissa Peterman, dressed in a Texas Longhorn hat and blue fringe George Strait shirt, besieged the stage and comedy ensued.
After hitting on Reba's mandolin player, who Melissa decided looked like Zac Efron (if she squinted her eyes), the comedienne requested the 'Reba' theme song, 'I'm a Survivor.' Melissa stayed on stage for the performance, while acting a tad bit high maintenance with requests such as, "Can I get a stool? It's a really long song and you tend to milk things." Then during the song, the actress showed off her lip-syncing skills and dance moves, which can only be described as interesting.
Once the set was over, fans anxiously awaited Reba's encore as they watched the beginning of the music video for 'Fancy.' In sync with the video, Reba was delivered to the stage in a taxi cab to perform the tune, her last of the night.
George and the Ace in the Hole band took the stage adorned in red shirts, which were mirrored by the crowd. The cowboy has asked fans to wear red in support of the troops on Fridays and, boy, did they.
'Check Yes or No' and 'The Fireman' were next, before the Texas-native threw in a song that definitely played to the audience by listing everything we wouldn't have, if it weren't for the Lone Star State. "I can't think of a better place to start than right here," he added before singing 'Texas,' which earned a huge cheer for the line "And there'd be no Austin City Limits sign."
Then came a song that George's son, Bubba, wrote for the 'Twang' album, 'Arkansas Dave.'
'The Breath You Take,' 'The Chair,' 'I Cross My Heart' and 'I Saw God Today,' all led up to 'Amarillo By Morning,' which the singer described as 'the most refreshing song' from his days in the honky-tonks.
King George brought a royal encore, starting with 'High Tone Woman,' into 'All My Ex's Live in Texas,' followed by Johnny Cash's 'Folsom Prison Blues' before ending with the ever-appropriate 'The Cowboy Rides Away.' And then, he did.
George, Reba and Lee Ann's next stop is January 27 in Tallahassee, Fla. Get details here.