Nine years ago today, on Jan. 18, 2013, George Strait launched what was supposed to be his farewell tour, the The Cowboy Rides Away Tour. The trek followed the country icon’s September 2012 announcement that he would be retiring from touring, but not from making music.
“I always had it in the back of my mind, when I turned 60, it might be the time to start thinking about it,” Strait said at the time. “I didn’t want to book a tour where nobody came.”
The King of Country, who was joined by opening act Martina McBride for the first leg of his final tour, kicked off the The Cowboy Rides Away Tour in Lubbock, Texas. Throughout his two-hour set, Strait ran through many of his biggest hits, including “Here for a Good Time,” “Ocean Front Property,” “I Saw God Today” and “Golden Ring,” the latter of which he sang with McBride.
Strait’s final concerts, which were held in arenas all across the country, sold out in minutes at almost every venue. The singer began a second leg of the The Cowboy Rides Away Tour on Jan. 9, 2014; for those shows, a variety of opening acts, including Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Little Big Town, Lee Ann Womack and Luke Bryan, joined Strait.
The final show on Strait’s The Cowboy Rides Away Tour was held on June 7, 2014, at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Several guests, including Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill, Faith Hill and Miranda Lambert, joined Strait at the concert, which set a new indoor attendance record, with 104,793 fans in attendance.
“I knew it would be kind of emotional, but I was still a little surprised to feel it that strongly,” Strait told People magazine after the show. “The first three or four shows in 2013 were the toughest, but every night it was in the back of my mind to take it all in, because I probably wouldn’t ever come back there again. It made me want to put on the best show we’ve ever done there. I hope we did that. I feel like we did.”
Strait released a live DVD and CD, The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium, commemorating that final concert. The package includes appearances by several of his special guests. Both the DVD and CD are available for purchase on Amazon.
As it turns out, however, Strait wasn’t able to resist the allure of the stage, albeit on a more manageable scale. In 2016, he played six concerts at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, and the following year, he upped his game by performing 10 shows at the same venue. Strait has continued to play in Vegas, and in 2019, he began booking a few one-off shows outside of Sin City, including performing on the closing night of RodeoHouston.
“We said from the beginning that we would listen to the fans and follow what they want,” Strait said in a press release announcing 2018’s shows. “Fan support is just as strong now as it was when we started; and we are responding to that interest …”
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