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November 23, 2014

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Photos: George Strait graces MGM Grand Garden Arena with class in a night befitting a legend

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Mona Shield Payne

Country music icon George Strait performs for a sold-out crowd during his final tour, “The Cowboy Rides Away,” at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Las Vegas.

George Strait, Martina McBride at MGM Grand

Country icon George Strait performs for the last time in Las Vegas for a sold-out crowd while on the road during his final tour -- The Cowboy Rides Away -- at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Saturday, February 2, 2013. Launch slideshow »
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Martina McBride opens for country music icon George Strait before a sold-out crowd during his final tour, "The Cowboy Rides Away," at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Las Vegas.

Country music legend George Strait has some of the best fans in the world, and they proved it over and over and over again Saturday night during his “The Cowboy Rides Away” stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Song after song, Strait, in his trademark black Stetson and a light blue or purple plaid button up and the epitome of class, received standing ovation after standing ovation. And deservedly so for one of the most successful artists in the history of country music embarking on his farewell tour.

The stage for the evening was round and on the arena floor, a rare setup for acts at MGM Grand Garden Arena but one that should be used more often, as it allows for a more intimate experience between superstar and fan. Think of a theater in a round, and it worked perfectly for Strait on Saturday night.

The beautiful and talented Martina McBride, one of my favorite female vocalists ever, was a stellar featured artist, and their duet of the Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash classic “Jackson” was one of the evening’s many highlights. McBride soared in voice and wore tight black leather pants and a black T-shirt with a large white rose.

Her setlist included “When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues,” “Wild Angels,” “My Baby Loves Me (Just the Way That I Am),” “Whatcha Gonna Do,” “Teenage Daughters,” “I’m Gonna Love You Through It,” “Anyway,” “Arms of Love,” Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” Sheryl Crow’s “The First Cut Is the Deepest” and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “Free Fallin’.”

Plus, Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” “Love’s the Only House,” “This One’s for the Girls,” “Whatever You Say,” her big hit “Broken Wing,” for which she received a well-deserved standing ovation,” and Independence Day.” At one point, McBride said, “I am the luckiest girl in the world. I get to tour with George freakin’ Strait. It doesn’t suck!”

In one of the night’s emotional moments, Strait honored USMC Corporal Derek Holman and presented Holman and his family with a key to their new home in Laughlin donated through Military Warriors Support Foundation’s program “Homes 4 Wounded Heroes.” Cpl. Holman served in the U.S. Army from 2001-2006, then re-enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2007, where he served until he was honorably discharged in 2011.

Strait’s nearly 30-song(!) setlist of the sold-out evening — the standby line for tickets was one of the longest I’ve ever seen — included “Here for a Good Time,” “Ocean Front Property,” “Check Yes or No,” “I Saw God Today,” “Drinkin’ Man,” “What Am I Waiting For,” “Love Is Going to Make It Alright,” “You’ll Be There,” “Jackson,” “Golden Ring,” “Blame It on Mexico,” “Her Goodbye Hit Me in the Heart” and “Lovebug.”

Also, “Honky Tonk Crazy,” “Marina Del Rey,” “A Fire I Can’t Put Out,” “The King of Broken Hearts,” “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” “The Chair,” “Rollin’ on the River of Love,” “How 'Bout Them Cowgirls,” “Stars on the Water,” “Give It Away,” “Living for the Night,” “Amarillo by Morning,” “I’ll Always Remember You,” “Troubadour” and “Unwound.”

On a final note, my father, Cy, and brother, Charles, accompanied me to Strait, both of them longtime country music fans — as am I, actually. Dad summed up: “I can’t believe that an old man like me listened to a three-hour concert, but it was worth it.”

Absolutely worth it.

Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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