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Playin' It Strait

Mike Sudhalter  |  February 1, 2008

It was the perfect night to be wearing a cowboy hat. On a rainy and windy night in Sacramento, Calif., my friend Kenny and I made the 45-minute trek north to see the King of Country Music, George Strait at Arco Arena.

It was my fourth time seeing Strait, but Kenny's first. One thing I heard quite often through the night, from Kenny, was "Oh, I didn't know he sang that song!"

Well, we arrived in Sac-Town and knew that we had to eat somewhere. Forget about eating the mediocre, overpriced food in the arena. Plus, I know every concession and food stand in that place by visiting Arco so much.

So we went to Center Court, the restaurant owned by former Sacramento King and current Golden State Warrior Chris Webber. I felt like I was in heaven, not because I'm a huge C-Webb fan.

But the restaurant had tons of basketball memorabilia, not to mention a giant scoreboard in the middle of it. But they were also playing all of Strait's hits. My twin passions, sports and country music, were in a blissful marriage for one meal. But then I found out, every Thursday is country night at Center Court, where the hardwood floor is used for line dancing. That's one more country night than I thought they had in the Central Valley.

So, running through the Arco parking lot wasn't so much fun considering all of the wind and rain. But we got to our seats, and had a really good view of the stage, or so we thought.

The stage was set up in the middle of the floor, and the performers rotated to all four corners of it at different times. So 3/4 of the time, they weren't facing your way. I didn't notice it as much two years ago when I saw Strait, sitting in the nosebleeds, but when you're close, it's very noticebable.

It was almost like the concert was being performed somewhere else when they were facing another direction.

Sarah Johns did a good show, but I wish she would have performed "Big Love In A Small Town", the title track off her debut album. Her cover of "Fishin' In The Dark" was excellent, and it was unique for me to hear a female artist perform this classic.

I think Johns fits into a similar mold as Gretchen Wilson. They're both strong country music performers who might not have the looks of a Faith Hill or Shania Twain. Give me some real country music or some gorgeous diva.

Josh Turner's show was really special, but Kenny made the observation that his band didn't look like a country band. I'd noticed that before in other bands, especially with Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert each having a mohawk wearing, punk-rock looking dude in their respective bands.

The only thing I can say to that is, it doesn't matter. Musicians need gigs, and it doesn't matter what band it looks like they should be playing in. As long as its sounds country, who cares?

It's rare to see three acts with this traditional of a sound in one evening.

Seeing Strait never gets old. In some ways, it's not much different than listening to him on an album, but for what he does, he does well.

And that's singing and playing the guitar.

I just wish he'd add some more cover songs. Why can't he we hear him do "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones or "Sing Me Back Home" by Merle Haggard. Or millions of other songs.

His consistency is respected by all. I just wish he threw some more surprises into the loop, that's part of the thrill of going to a concert. I realize that many people didn't attend his January 2006 show, but I also think a lot of people did.

It can't hurt to mix it up. I wonder if he performed "Folsom Prison Blues" because of the proximity of Folsom - 30 minutes away - to Sacramento. His rollicking version of it was great, but I wanted to hear some other things.

That is my only complaint on an otherwise great night of traditional country music.

:: Posted at 2:51 PM by Mike Sudhalter ::
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