George Strait kicks off farewell tour in Bossier City
 
Written by John Andrew Prine....Shreveport Times
 
Country music legend George Strait kicked off the second leg of his Cowboy Rides Away tour Thursday at CenturyLink Center in Bossier City. The sold-out show, with opener Jason Aldean, was about the 15th time the singer has performed in Shreveport-Bossier City since 1987.

This is being billed as his final tour. After the Bossier City opener, there are 25 more shows from California to Massachusetts, with another Louisiana stop in Baton Rouge on May 23 and a finale, on a date to be announced, at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

Fans started arriving in droves between 5 and 6 p.m. Thursday, thanks to reserved seating and drizzly, cold weather that had police shivering as they ably directed traffic with precision into the parking lots north and south of the concert hall.

Just before showtime, fans scurried through the parking lot for the great event. Based on random sampling, a fair number were catching one of his shows for the first time.

Pam and Tommy McBroom, both in their 50s, drove three hours from Baskin.

“This is our first time,” she said. “The tickets were Christmas presents from our daughters.”

“We love his music,” he said, adding that it being a farewell tour added a bit of sadness. “It’s even more special than it would have been at any other time.”

Friends Jessica Larison and Ashley Cripps, both of Arcadia, were making the concert a girls’ night out, sans hubbies.

“My husband said ‘Do not tell ANYONE how much you paid for a ticket,” Larison said.

Cripps, however, spilled the beans: Around $150. It was her first George Strait concert.

“He’s King George. He’s perfect. I’ve always wanted to see him.”

Larison saw Strait once before. Asking why she wanted to be there was silly. “It’s George Strait.”

Tommy Weidner, of Carthage, Texas, drove to Bossier City when tickets went on sale several months ago and was part of a lottery to buy tickets. “I was like the ninth person to be picked. I was able to get halfway decent tickets for the regular price. It was kind of a Christmas present for her.”
The lucky recipient was his wife, Wendy. It was the first George Strait concert for both of them.

“I grew up listening to old country with my parents, so I’m a big fan of George Strait,” she said. “We’re both fans of country music. And he was so close and I’ve never seen him.”

For James Shafer and Kayla Ford, Thursday’s show was almost neighborhood fare. Both live in Bossier City, perhaps five minutes from the hall.

“This is my second show,” Shafer said. Why? “This is George Strait.” As for the farewell: “He’ll be back.”

It was Ford’s first Strait concert, but she knew what she needed to know.

“He’s the King of Country Music. That’s it.”

Local fan Cindy Phillips Anderson planned to catch the show.

“Yes, I love him, been to many of his shows. (He) puts on a great show. And seeing he is retiring from touring, (I) couldn't pass up this chance!”

She said she has “probably seen him a good 10 times. Maybe even more. He doesn't do all that jumping around, etc., he stands there and sings and that's all he needs to do. When he smiles and sings to the crowd, it's like heaven. Going to miss seeing him in concert.

“I also have every magazine he has ever been in, posters, T-shirts. In my eyes, I’m his biggest fan. Love me some George Strait!”

Another fan took the bullet for her family, so to speak.

“I tried to get three tickets, one for me, my husband, and our daughter,” Michelle Lafitte Dugan said. “I was only able to get two tickets, so I’m letting my husband (the biggest George Strait fan ever) and my daughter go. I've seen him before, my daughter never has and this is her last chance; so I’ll sit at home and catch up on ‘Walking Dead’ episodes. I paid $111 for each ticket.”

U.S. District Judge Maury Hicks used his lunch hour to pick up four George Strait tickets from the will-call box office at CenturyLink Center.

He didn't get any break in price, or VIP treatment. He shopped for tickets online, paying just over $100 per ticket, including convenience fees. In addition to Hicks and his wife, Glynda, the tickets were for Hicks’ law clerk and his wife.Several years ago, Hicks persuaded his wife to travel to a concert to hear his kind of music, the Rolling Stones, and it’s been payback ever since. “I never realized the Rolling Stones would come with such a heavy price. It keeps extracting money from me.”

Still, he enjoys Strait, so it is a double labor of love.

Strait is a “wonderful performer and does such recognizable music, with sooooo many hits, and he’s simple and straightforward. You know, he has no light show or anything, it’s just pure entertainment.”
Hicks thinks this was third time he and Glynda have caught a Strait concert at the Bossier City venue.

“She likes George Strait,” he said. “She likes that Strait honky-tonk Western singing. He’s one of her very favorite singers. We've been to Branson and heard a number of country-Western people there, too, like Don Williams.”

According to Times records, Strait has performed at least 14 times in Shreveport-Bossier City since 1987. His last performance in Shreveport – at Hirsch Memorial Coliseum with Terri Clark on Feb. 7, 1996 – was the start of a long dry spell for fans here. It wasn't until January 2003 that Strait performed at the then-CenturyTel Center in Bossier City with Tammy Cochran.

Since then, Times files show he played CenturyTel/CenturyLink Center at least four more times before Thursday night’s show: in 2012 with Martina McBride, in 2010 with Reba McIntyre and LeeAnn Womack, in 2007 with Ronnie Milsap and a 16-year-old Taylor Swift and in 2004 with Dierks Bentley and Kellie Coffey.

His Hirsch Memorial shows weren't shabby, either. Strait performed there with Terri Clark in 1996, Chely Wright in 1995 (in a rescheduled concert that originally had Faith Hill as his opener), Patty Loveless in 1994 and 1990, Pam Tillis in 1992, Lorrie Morgan in 1991, the Bellamy Brothers in 1989, Highway 101 in 1988 and John Conlee in 1987.

Thursday’s cold, wet weather likely didn’t shock his longtime local fans. Of all these Strait shows, only the 2010 performance occurred at a time of fairly decent weather, in September.