George Strait Rides Into the Record Book

Craig Rosen
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George Strait's the Cowboy Rides Away farewell tour is big. In fact, Strait's final show Saturday in Arlington, Texas was so big, it broke the concert attendance record for North America, previously held by the Rolling Stones.

The Stones drew about 87,500 to their 1981 show at the Superdome in New Orleans, but they didn't stand a chance against Strait's star-studded farewell show.

More than 104,000 people crammed into AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, to see Strait's final show and they likely weren't disappointed. The 62-year-old star played a three-hour, 40-song set, featuring 20 of his 60 overall No. 1 hits (that figure being another record in itself) and guest spots from Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Alan Jackson Miranda Lambert, Eric Church, Kenny Chesney, and Jason Aldean. All those stars paid homage to Strait and shared a hug with the famed performer. He also dropped in covers of Johnny Cash's "Jackson," performed as a duet with McBride, and "Folsom Prison Blues."

At one point in the show, after he was showered with applause, Strait admitted that it was going to be hard for him to walk away from touring. "That's what I'm going to miss the most right there," he said. "Thank you so much."

It likely comes as no surprise to staunch followers of the superstar that his final show -- which commanded ticket prices stretching into  thousands of dollars per seat -- would be so well-attended. Strait has enjoyed remarkable critical and popular acclaim over his career, notching up such superlative accolades as he most No. 1 singles of any artist in any genre, the only artist to chart a Top 10 hit every year for 30 years, and the most No. 1 albums, gold albums, and platinum albums in the history of country music.

With the farewell show, Strait winds up nearly 40 years of touring, but this isn't the end of the music for him. Last year, he signed a new deal with MCA Records to record five more albums, and will do an occasional live show or possibly settle into a residency in Las Vegas. However, Saturday marked the end of his career as a touring artist.

He's riding off the road on a high note. Even before Saturday's record-breaking mega-gig, Strait has been doing blockbuster business with this farewell trek. The Cowboy Rides Away tour, which began last year, has hit 31 states, selling out 45 stadiums and arenas along that way to about a million fans.

Apparently, this cowboy will be greatly missed.

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