Seeing George Strait two nights in a row put me in another kind of heaven in Vegas.
George was in top form both nights (Dec. 8th & 9th). On Friday we had third-row end seats on the main floor. Due to the staggering of the rows, there were no seats in front of us. Even better, our position was next to the fenced aisle George walks to and from the stage. Ethyl managed three hand swipes, including one where HE squeezed HER hand, and I got one. It wasn’t exactly the thrill of my life — after all, I was kissed by The Cisco Kid — but it was a memory.
He sang more than 30 songs Friday, including two that paid tribute to Merle Haggard. On Friday, he did “Mama Tried” and “Are The Good Times Really Over For Good.” On Saturday he subbed “Working Man Blues” for “Mama Tried.” He has included The Hag tribute in his concerts since Merle died last year. We were so close to the stage that we could watch his lips form every word. My personal favorite, which he sang both nights, was “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This.”
It was a special treat to have songwriter Dean Dillon join George on the stage both nights. They sang, “Easy Come, Easy Go,” one of the 11 Number Ones out of the 55 songs Dillon has written for George, and “Here For A Good Time,” another Number One that Dean, George and Bubba Strait co-wrote. Strait’s Dillon hits also include “Marina del Rey,” “The Chair,” “I’ve Come to Expect It From You,” “She Let Herself Go” and “The Best Day.” Dillon joked that George’s producer talked him out of “Easy Come, Easy Go,” which he intended to record himself, by telling him George would make it a Number One. “I did the math, and the decision was easy,” Dillon said.
Dillon and Frank Dycus originally co-wrote “Unwound” for Johnny Paycheck, but the latter was in prison. “Unwound” became the unknown Strait’s breakthrough hit, although it didn’t go to Number One. Dillon also wrote huge hits for artists other than Strait, like George Jones (“Tennessee Whiskey”) and Keith Whitley (“Homecoming ’63”), and more recently he has gotten a slew of cuts by Kenny Chesney (“A Lot of Things Different”) and Toby Keith (“A Little Too Late”).
We had tickets in the nosebleed section for Saturday night. That’s when George’s encore paid tribute to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys with “Milk Cow Blues” and “Take Me Back to Tulsa.” A lot of George’s fans love Bob Wills and wish George would put out a western swing CD.
Half the fans at each concert must have been from Texas. Every time George mentioned the Lone Star State, in song or speech, people all over the arena whooped and hollered. A particularly obnoxious couple from San Antonio sat behind us Saturday. They yelled so loud that the woman next to me asked them to tone it down because they were in her ears. After mumbling about what a bitch the woman was, the couple finally settled a bit.
Obnoxious boors aside, George’s concerts always take his fans Strait to heaven.