The new Cowboys stadium might not have been completely ready for 60,000 guests, but the four country music super stars who headlined Saturday’s opening night came fully locked and loaded.
During our pre-show media tour of the facility, Dallas Cowboys officials informed us that Julianne Hough, who was scheduled to open the evening, was being replaced by Jacksonville native Lee Ann Womack.
We missed Womack’s opening songs, as we were sent on a mission around and around and up and own, to find our way to our seats on the floor, but the songs we did hear were great, considering how muddy the sound system was.
There has already been a lot printed and blogged about the low quality of the sound at the stadium. Well, duh. The place is meant for football games, not concerts. If you want an acoustically perfect performance, go to an opera house. This is the house that Jerry Jones built for the Cowboys who play games, not songs.
Womack laid out a list of her hits, “A Little Past Little Rock,” “I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” “Last Call,” “Ashes” and a great arrangement of “I Hope You Dance.” She has an impressive range – and from the third row, I thought she had a great sound, too.
Blake Shelton was next. He swaggered out on to the stage holding up a Miller Lite.
“This is not my first of the day,” he told the crowd.
Shelton’s band provided solid backup for the country rocker.
He admitted to being just a little nervous and intimidated by the venue, but launched right into a rousing set that included, “Nobody But Me,” “Old Red” and a hilarious cover of the “FreeCreditReport.com” song. It was totally unexpected but the audience seemed to love it.
He slowed it down some with “Austin” and his cover of Michael Bublé’s “Home.” Both were soulful and showed off his powerful pipes. It’s one thing to sing a ballad on a CD or a video, but who knew the country rocker could deliver a ballad like that to a live audience?
Then it was Reba’s turn to take the stage – or should I say “storm the stage”?
The former tomboy from Oklahoma has grown into a polished performer who plays to her strengths and is smart enough to surround herself with top shelf musicians who can follow her every lead.
She has been called the “Queen of Country Music” – and with good reason. She’s released 31 albums during her 33-year career and has sold over 50 million records.
While she didn’t sing all of her #1 hits, McEntire covered a large number of them. She delivered energetic numbers like “Why Haven’t I Heard from You?” “I’m Going to Climb That Mountain,” “That’s the Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” “Rumor Has It” and her new single “Strange,” but she also took time to slow things down a bit with an emotional ballad, “Still” and “Because of You” the hit she had with American Idol winner and Dallas native Kelly Clarkson.
It’s hard to make 60,000 people – some who have imbibed just a bit too much – sit still and listen, but when Reba did those two slow songs, you could have almost heard a pin drop.
Even though the stadium’s sound system left a lot to be desired, Jennifer Wrinkle, who plays a mean fiddle and rhythm guitar, provided some spectacular back-up vocals for McEntire. The girl should be cutting her own records and performing as the opening act for someone. She’s that good!
Reba changed from bluejeans to a “Fancy” red, beaded fringe dress for her encore and tore it up. She knows how to leave them wanting more.
For most of us, the big moment of the night, scheduled to start at 8:50 began a little after 9:30, but was so worth the long lines, endless trips around the building, scary elevator rides and all the other snags we hit during our visit.
George Strait looks – and sounds – better than ever. From “Write This Down,” his opening number through 27 other great hits, Strait was as regal as they come.
He ranks second only to Elivs and the Beatles for the number of records sold. He earned AMC’s “Entertainer of the Decade” title by singing songs with grace and style, whether they’re about honky tonks or being in love.
There’s no strutting and preening on the stage for this guy. He doesn’t need animation. He’s perfection just standing still. Well, standing still with that lop-sided grin on his face and in those Wranglers.
His set included the hits “Ocean Front Property,” “Honk If You Love Honky Tonk,” “Yes or No,” “I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore,” “Give it Away,” “I Saw God Today,” and a new single, “Living for the Night.”
Strait’s “Ace in the Hole” band is strong enough to tour alone, especially when it comes to the fiddle playing of Gene Elders. His work on “Amarillo by Morning” was enough to break your heart.
Strait closed with “Cowboy Rides Away,” and did a rolicking encore of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Again, the sound system did Strait no favors, but it really did not matter. The crowd had come to hear the King – and he gave us all the royal treatment.
Note: They ran out of food Saturday night, which is not a good thing, but hopefully, guest services will have figured it all out by the time the Jonas Brothers hit town on June 20.
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