Friday Night: George Strait & Reba At Austin's Erwin Center
Friday night, Aftermath drove to Austin to catch one of the lone Texas stops on this round of tandem touring by the King and Queen of Country, George Strait and Reba McEntire, with Lee Ann Womack as support. Houston will probably not get a Strait gig this year, and Reba didn't line up a RodeoHouston date, so we bolted west.
Sorry, Daniel Johnston, who had a birthday bash thrown for him at Fitzgerald's. Happy birthday, though.
George Strait is one of the few artists that we have actually driven out of town to see, and that list is small. Scott H. Biram, Motorhead, Turbonegro, The Hives and Queens Of the Stone Age have all edged us out of town, but this was our first time leaving Houston to see the King.
Strait and McEntire on the same bill is something to see, and seeing either of them outside the confines of an audio backwater like Reliant Stadium is a treat. The Erwin Center is a bit smaller than the Toyota Center and just a tad bigger than our own Reliant Arena, if they ever want to start having shows there again.
We got inside the arena just in time for the second song of McEntire's set. The more you see a female country artist of McEntire's age and caliber, the more you are reminded about how she was truly one of the first of the modern female acts to embrace the pop life. The difference with McEntire is that she never watered down the twang along the way.
McEntire's set was heavy on the classics, like "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia," "Why Haven't I Heard From You" and "Is There Life Out There?". The fire in the redhead's voice hasn't diminished, and if anything, as she gets older it's getting more forceful and aggressively playful, in the best way possible.
She pulled out her recent pop covers, Beyonce's "If I Were A Boy," from last year's new set All The Women I Am, and Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You," which she recorded as a duet with Clarkson in 2008. The former comes off more as a novelty because the subject matter is more suited to Beyonce, and the boy imagery comes off stilted.
But McEntire now completely and utterly owns Clarkson's song, which covers much of the same territory as McEntire's recorded output. A detour with her former Reba co-star and country comedian Melissa Peterman easily killed ten minutes, and only yielded "I'm A Survivor" in return. We empathized more with the song more than ever for surviving the sketch and not going to grab another beer.
A fun fact about Peterman: She's one of the hookers who hooks up with Carl and Gaear after they get pancakes in Fargo.
"Fancy" was her sole encore, Reba's Bobbie Gentry-penned 1991 single heralded by the opening from the music video playing on the big screens as McEntire came out in a taxicab and man-killing red cocktail dress. For a song about a teen girl getting forced into prostitution, a lot of us guys were singing our hearts out.