George Strait: Always There Never the Same

March 14, 1999

When writing an article on George Strait, there’s not much you can say that the public doesn’t already know. There’s not much that he hasn’t accomplished in the music business. Not many awards he hasn’t won. Since he started his career in 1981, he’s won more CMA Awards than any artist in history. He’s collected more than 40 other major show business awards and has had 43 No.1 singles. His box set is so popular that it ranks in the same category as sets by major rock stars like Bruce Springsteen and Led Zeppelin. All 23 of his MCA albums are still in print and have been certified either Gold, Platinum or Multi-Platinum. We could go on for hours about his accolades, but it would just be repeating things you already know.  We could mention his new album, it’s his 24th for MCA Records.

Titled “Always Never The Same,” it picks up where “One Step At A Time” left off. George is a master at interpreting a song. Regardless of the writer,once he records a song, it becomes his. He has recently started co-producing his albums with Tony Brown, the president of MCA Records. George used Jimmy Bowen for years but switched to Brown when “Pure Country” was release in 1992. Since then, Strait has taken a much more involved approach in his music. Always reclusive, he would rather let his music do his talking. This may be the secret to his longevity in the business.

With George, less is more. With quiet dignity, he remains the lone wolf in a pack of wannabes. Name me all the singers you know who could stand center stage, rarely move, rarely strum a guitar, yet drive audiences berserk. If there’s a list, it’s a short one. He’s been voted the CMA’s “Male Vocalist Of The Year,” five times. In fact, he’s the only artist in history who has been so honored in two different decades. Once he made his mark with “Unwound” in 1981, George hit the top of the charts and has stayed there ever since. His latest hit single, “Meanwhile,” has followed suite with all the others. It’s a great song but I wish they would have left off the choking background orchestra.

The rest of the album is typical George Strait, and that’s a good thing. He’s one of the few artists you can count on for a consistent product every time. His vocals continue to mature with time, especially on cuts like “Write This Down” and “Peace Of Mind.” He revisits “Ocean Front Property” on the solid “That’s The Truth.” He’s always done well on the ballads and the Dean Dillon penned “That’s Where I Wanna Take Our Love” is another hit single should he decide to release it as such. The only dud on the album is the mushy “What Do You Say To That.” It is so muddled down with orchestra and strings, you barely hear the music. The title track promises to be a real barnburner in concert. With it’s rich instrumental track, it will give the “Ace In The Hole Band” a chance to really stretch out and show their stuff.

Where better than on the huge stage that will make up the touring extravaganza known as the “George Strait Country Music Festival.” It started this past weekend in Phoenix at Sun Devil Stadium. It will continue through June 6th, where it will end in Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium. Eighteen cities of non-stop entertainment. George will headline an all day music event that will begin with Asleep At The Wheel, Mark Wills, Jo Dee Messina, Kenny Chesney, Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw and of course, George Strait.   According to reports on the Internet, the concert in Phoenix was a  complete success. Of course, these comments were made by the people running the website. Some fans left messages on the official festival website (www.georgestraitfans.com) and often had a difference of opinion. Here’s what “Chris” had to say. “I attended the concert in Phoenix Saturday and was quite disappointed. Even though I bought my tickets one hour after they went on sale, my seats were so far away that George was a dot on the huge stage.  Not a good deal for 50 bucks, I could have just stayed at home and watched CMT since I had to watch the video monitors anyway. Alcohol was not served in the stadium, it could only be consumed at Straitland, leaving the question of do I drink or do I watch the concert? And alcohol (at 7 bucks a beer) was only served until 6:45pm. My friends and I spent our day in Straitland since we couldn’t see anything in the stadium anyway. Needless to say, I probably won’t be returning next year.” In case you’re wondering what “Straitland” is, it’s the massive display of tents, vendors, merchandise, food and entertainment that is set up in the parking lot outside the stadium. Fans can wander around, eat, drink and spend tons of money before heading inside to watch the concert.

Another Internet fan, known simply as “Cowgirl22” had this to say.   “This is the 2nd year I’ve attended the opening of the concert tour. George was his typical self… playing his music, with little interaction… great nevertheless. Tim Mcgraw was as great as every, and took the show. The Dixie Chicks need some time alone to deal with their lack of live singing ability.  Kenny Chesney is a solid “up and comer” but needs more range. I spent the entire day at Sun Devil Stadium, and came away singing (that’s how I measure concert success). You go George!”

The next night was in El Paso and things didn’t go quite as well.  Outdoor shows are often hindered by bad weather and that’s what happened here. Halfway through the George Strait concert at the El Paso, Texas Sun Bowl, the concert had to be canceled. At around 8 p.m. on Sunday night, high winds tore through the Sun Bowl turning it into a dust bowl. Promoters had to suspend the show and send the fans home. Scaffolding in the center of the stadium became unstable as wind gusts of 55mph began to pummel it. The scaffolding holds the sound mixers and various spotlights and equipment.  Fans said the structure was swaying. The concert was scheduled to go on rain or shine. However no one ever said anything about wind. Even Tim McGraw’s set was canceled. Some fans paid as much as $250 to see George Strait and his friends in concert for the first time in seven years in El Paso. The concert promoters said they will release information regarding the concert in the immediate future. It may be rescheduled but there are no plans for that at this time. Texas fans going to the Rice Stadium show in Houston on April 17th may want to keep a close watch on the weather. I’ll be attending the San Antonio show on April 11th and it’s inside the Alamodome, so fortunately the weather won’t be a factor. See you there

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