George Strait is not retiring from country music; just country music touring. Still, the last stop on his final tour (appropriately titled “The Cowboy Rides Away”) was a celebration/tribute of record-breaking proportions over the weekend, officially becoming the biggest indoor concert in history.
Held at AT&T Stadium in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, about 105,000 showed up to bid the “King of Country” farewell — that’s the most fans at a concert since the Rolling Stones played New Orleans’s Superdome back in 1981. (It’s also more people than can watch the Dallas Cowboys play at AT&T Stadium, considering that 105,000 people is actually more than the venue’s official capacity, even for a concert, which fills the stadium floor.)
Those fans got quite a show: Nine country stars joined Strait on stage to bid farewell and play a couple duets: Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Martina McBride and Sheryl Crow.
The whole thing was one big country music lovefest, as each singer that took the stage bantered with Strait, who told the story behind multiple songs. Here’s a list of every duet and tribute that took place, as many fans took plenty of footage:
Alan Jackson: “Amarillo by Morning”/”Murder on Music Row”
“This is a song, yes, we started doing it in the ’70s. Back in the old honky-tonks around South and Central Texas, it was one of our most requested songs … it’s still one of my favorite songs to do,” Strait said as he introduced “Amarillo by Morning.” Jackson appeared on stage in the middle of the song to join in.
Afterward, he brought two cups on stage and proposed a toast to Strait’s 34 years in music, saying he’s been a fan forever: “George I just gotta say, this is the coolest country music concert there’s ever been, right here.” Strait returned the favor, calling Jackson “one of the greatest singer/songwriters you’ll ever hear.”
The two men then launched into “Murder on Music Row.” “This feels appropriate today,” Jackson said, a joke that could have many meanings.
Kenny Chesney: “Oceanfront Property” / “The Fireman”
“My friend, my hero!” Chesney yelled, pointing at Strait, after the two sang “Oceanfront Property.”
“We’ve worked a lot together over the years, and I gotta say it’s been my pleasure knowing you,” Strait replied. Chesney pointed at him:”The very first stadium show I ever did — I did with this man right here.”
Miranda Lambert “How Bout Them Cowgirls” / “Run”
“I’m playing at home, in Texas, with the king of Texas and country music!” Lambert said. Strait beamed. “How about this girl everybody?”
After the two collaborated on “A Showman’s Life” (Hill did vocals on the album version of the song), Strait explained how he wound up singing the tune, a 2003 cover from Gary Allan. “I came across that song a couple of years ago and first heard it and was like, ‘Man if Faith would just sing with me, it would make this record,’” Strait said. “And I’ll be damned! Thanks, Faith — you did make the record.”
Vince Gill “Love Bug” / “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind”
“Man, I can’t tell you how nice it is to have him around here,” Strait said of his friend. “Thank you so much.”
“You bet, buddy,” Gill assured him. “Wouldn’t have missed it. I’ve known this man for 33 years.”
“Fellow Hall of Famer, it’s good to be with you tonight. And so Vince picked this song, and I think you’ll like it,” Strait announced, leading into “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.”
Eric Church “Cowboys Like Us” / “Easy Come, Easy Go”
As is customary, Church didn’t waste a lot of time on small talk, as Strait thanked him profusely for being there.
Jason Aldean “Fool Hearted Memory” / “Nobody in His Right Mind Would Have Left Her”
“He’s not only a huge influence for me, but everybody else in Nashville and every country music artist that has ever sang into a microphone,” Aldean said, announcing they were about to do “another oldie” called “Nobody in His Right Mind Would Have Left Her.”
Martina McBride: “Jackson” / “Golden Ring”
Strait noted McBride is a big George Jones and Tammy Wynette fan before launching into a cover of the duo’s “Golden Ring.”
Sheryl Crow: “Here For a Good Time” / “When Did You Stop Loving Me”
Crow said that in 20 years of touring, the highlight of her career is singing with Strait (as well as being his opening act). The two promised to write together in the future.