Or, shall we say, au revoir — until next time.
George Strait — the cowboy, the troubadour, country music's king — said farewell (for now) to a record-breaking group of Omaha fans Friday night.
He laughed, he basked in the cheers and he sang “Amarillo by Morning” and 32 other songs for more than two hours at the CenturyLink Center Omaha, where he broke the arena's attendance record.
On Friday, 17,486 fans filled the arena, breaking the venue's previous record of 17,206.
(Of note: The previous record also was set by Strait.)
Between the screaming fans, Eric Church's opening solo acoustic performance, the litany of familiar songs and Strait's even baritone, it was the best country show I can ever remember seeing.
Fans were happy to see and hear so much from the legend, considering he'll call it quits on touring after this summer. Now, Strait admits he will continue to perform intermittently, but this will be the last time he embarks on a major tour and it's likely the last time many fans will see him.
“When I first set out on the road, I thought I'd be lucky to do it five years. Well, it's been 30 years, and I still love it,” Strait said from the stage. “I'm not retiring though. I'm not quitting. I'll be back, just not so often.”
Friday's entertainment began with an excellent set from Church, who performed his hourlong list of songs — including “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen” — without his backing band.
(Read a full review of Church's solo set over on Kevin Coffey's blog, Rock Candy.)
Strait continued by embarking on a 33-song set list that covered both his major hits and lots of fan favorites with the talented veterans of the 11-member Ace in the Hole Band backing him all the while.
He started with 1985's “The Fireman” and quickly moved onto other decades with “Check Yes or No” (1995), “I Saw God Today” (2008) and “I Got a Car” (2013).
The set included several slow ballads (“I Saw God Today,” “You Look So Good in Love”) and plenty of fun, up tempo tunes (“Unwound,” “The Fireman,” “Here for a Good Time”) that had fans dancing with their partners in the aisles.
And then there were the ones I like to call the “sad cowboy songs” including “I Can Still Make Cheyenne,” “Ocean Front Property,” “The Cowboy Rides Away” and “Cowboys Like Us.” They're my favorites, and the audience cheered them the loudest.
Some songs had the audience singing so loudly that they drowned out the star of the show. Strait's voice was barely discernible during “Amarillo by Morning.”
Later in the set, Church joined Strait onstage to duet on “Cowboys Like Us” and “Easy Come, Easy Go,” and you could tell from the smile on his face that it was a highlight of Church's career to be onstage with a legend.
Strait also appeared to be having the time of his life. He smiled more than I remember in past shows, and he looks and sounds as good as ever. It makes me wonder why he's hanging up his black cowboy hat when he's doing so well.
Fans seemed to agree. During the latter half of the concert, which was filled with some of his most well-known songs, the audience kept Strait on the stage by applauding and screaming like they were teenagers at an Elvis concert.
“Y'all have been such a great audience tonight. I hope y'all had as much fun as we did,” Strait said at the close of the show. “We'll see you down the road somewhere. I know we will.”