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Story and file photos by Andy Argyrakis
Given his elder statesmen status, Strait closed out the evening, turning in tunes from his newest studio CD Twang (MCA Nashville) and dozens from a chart topping catalogue that dates back to 1981. Even though this year celebrates his 30th anniversary in the business, his popularity remains at an all-time high, though his style remains laid back and fairly traditional when compared to today's pop/country class.
Take for instance the opener "Twang," which sounds exactly like the title proclaims, the foot stomping "Honk If You Honky Tonk" and the heartbreaking ballad "I Can Still Make Cheyenne," all of which possessed Strait's affable appeal and ruggedly chiseled vocals. Though not exactly a guitar virtuoso, the singer strummed along briskly to staples like "Check Yes Or No" and "Blue Clear Sky," while stripping down the mood for the reflective newcomer "Where Have I Been All My Life." While on auto-pilot during some portions of his marathon set, Strait still can command a crowd with his mixture of beer-soaked revelry and emotional ballads that offers a lesson in longevity to those currently coming up on his coattails.
Even more exciting and electrifying was Reba, whose since shed her last name to enter the same divalicious category of Madonna, Cher, Beyonce and all the other single moniker stars. She even gave a shout out to the latter soul powerhouse by performing a surprising cover of "If I Were A Boy," demonstrating just how far her reach spans outside of strictly country. However, Reba made sure not to stray too far from the plot, plowing through "Can't Even Get The Blues," "The Fear Of Being Alone" and "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" with her signature southern charm in tact.
The hands down highlight of her show (and the night as a whole) was a jaw dropping duet with Womack on the classic "Does He Love You," which tells the tale of a complicated love triangle straight out of a soap opera. Indeed, Reba's a consummate interpreter able to convey a myriad of subject matter as diverse as "When You Have a Child" to "Why Haven't I Heard From You" with poise and passion. Even if the order of the evening should've been reversed from strictly an entertainment perspective, Strait and Reba are truly an unstoppable combination.
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