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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Strait plays it straight

Worcester, Mass. Centrum, Sept. 7, 1996

By Jeffrey B. Remz

WORCESTER - The hits kept piling up for George Strait.

Just about anything he has touched turned to gold, well, er platinum,P>But that didn't meant the Texan was about to head up to New England. In fact, he hadn't been here in years.

So, was the wait worth it?

Just to see the country superstar was perhaps in an of itself enough for most people.

But showing up proved not being quite good enough

The strength of Strait, whose latest "Blue Clear Sky" has yielded a number of more hits, has been his ability to pick songs that suit his voice. And his chords possess an easy-going quality to it.

During the 95-minute show at a packed Centrum, he easily moved from the fast-paced opener "Love Bug" to country ballads ("Easy Come Easy Go" to a Merle Haggard song) to western swing ("Big Balls in Cowtown," one of the highlights of the evening) with little difficulty.

Strait did well in balancing the concert between the different styles.

But the problem was that there was little in the way of drama or climax to the affair. It wasn't exactly a run-through-the-numbers kind of evening where he only played hit after hit, but there was very little spontaneity either.

The backing Ace in the Hole Band, spearhead by fiddler Gene Elders and pedal streel player Mike Daily, certainly could play and occasionally was allowed to play out, but once again, you had the feeling they've been there, done that.

A Strait show isn't one with the glitz of some performers or certainly not the high energy of a Garth Brooks. Strait is not a big talker, although he often thanked the audience. Strait seemed like a performer more comfortable singing his songs than engaging in real interaction with a receptive audience.

It's just the handsome Strait putting his songs across. And that he does well.

The only problem was that in the context of a concert, it doesn't make for the most exciting of evenings.

The staging, in part, contributed to that. The simple stage was smack dab in the mddle of the floor with all sight lines easily able to see the stage.

Since Strait had to hit each side of the square stage, at least half the time, his tushy enclosed in perfectly creased Wranglers was the highlight. And the band members often faced inward toward the center instead of turning to the audience.

The bottom line is Strait may have a mother lode of top-notch material that is head and shoulders above almost of his fellow performers, but this was more an evening where Strait played it straight. Too straight.