By Joshua Wallace

Photo Credit : Joshua Wallace

On Saturday March 30th, I had the pleasure of seeing the king of modern country music George Strait live for the first time.  He had a whole afternoon’s worth of opening acts including the new ACM New Female Artist Of The Year Ashley McBryde, “Buy Me A Boat” songwriter Chris Jansen and one of my favorite guitar players and singers to see live, Chris Stapleton.  With that kind of lineup, I knew I was in for one good show and the evening did not disappoint.

This show was at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA and this was actually my first experience at this stadium.  I must say, it’s facilities are top notch. The sound was perfect and the seating was comfortable. I also have to comment on the reasonably priced food options at the event.  $8 for a burrito at a stadium isn’t bad. If you’re buying alcohol, it can get expensive there, but you probably already knew that going in.

Ashley McBryde

The evening kicked off with Ashley McBryde opening things right at 4pm and she put on a great show.  I have been a fan of Ashley’s since I first heard “A Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega” and she does not disappoint live.  It was amazing hearing these songs in front of what had to be one of her biggest audiences even with people still making it to their seats.  She opened with one of my favorite songs of hers “Livin’ Next To Leroy” and I was pleased to hear that one live. The track “Girl Going Nowhere” really resonates at this point in her career as she is really starting to take off.  She hit a few tracks from her Girl Going Nowhere album including “American Scandal” and “Tired Of Being Happy”. She even got to a deeper cut that I can’t find on an album called “Rattlesnake Preacher”. I need to see a full concert of her’s at some point in the near future.

Chris Janson

The next opening act was also on time at 4:45pm and it was Chris Janson.  While I do enjoy “Buy Me A Boat”, I’m not the biggest fan of Janson’s music but I was looking forward to seeing him live.  Part of his performance was him without a guitar, jumping around on stage pandering to the crowd. This did nothing for the songs he was trying to sing like “Fix A Drink” or “Buy Me A Boat” and I didn’t care for this portion of his performance.  However, when he picked up a guitar and sang a Hank Williams tune followed by “White Trash” mixed in with “A Country Boy Can Survive”, it started getting better. The sentimental track “Holdin’ Her” was probably the best moment of his set.

Chris Stapleton

Chris Stapleton Jamming

Paul Franklin on Pedal Steel

Up next in the 6:15pm slot was Chris Stapleton.  I last saw Chris live in November, 2017 and he has only got better since.  He started things off with “Midnight Train To Memphis” and by this point in the evening, the sound was perfect for where I was at in the lower bowl.  Right away I noticed something different, Chris had a pedal steel player sitting in with him tonight. It was none other than pedal steel legend Paul Franklin.  He has played with just about anyone you can name live and on record and it was a treat hearing him here. I just wish I could be closer to the stage, right up next to the pedal steel in my usual spot for these kind of performances.  He then got into a long set of hits with “Nobody To Blame”, “Traveller”, “Millionaire”, “Broken Halos”, “Whiskey and You”, “Was It 26” and more. He even got into his signature live cover of “Freebird” before “The Devil Named Music”. Nothing felt cut short and he got a full set minus the encore.  The band closed things out with “Tennessee Whiskey” which is always a treat to hear live because no one does this song like he does.

George Strait

Stadium Effect for “Ocean Front Property”

Next up was the main event, George Strait.  He played a long 30+ song set and hit at least something from 16 of his 30 studio albums.  This also included 3 covers which were 2 Merle Haggard songs and 1 Tom Petty song. He hit major tracks like “Amarillo By Morning”, “I Can Still Make Cheyenne”, “Check Yes Or No”, “Ocean Front Property” and “Troubadour”.  That last one is my favorite Strait tune so I was glad he got to it. The albums that got the most cuts with 4 were his newest Honky Tonk Time Machine and his 2006 record It Just Comes Natural. George hit all of the singles from his latest effort including “God And Country Music”, “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar” and “The Weight Of The Badge”.  I was hoping for a Willie Nelson appearance on “Sing One With Willie”, but you can’t win them all. He did a 5 song encore to wrap up the night which included the western swing number “All My Ex’s Live In Texas”, “Heartland”, “I Cross My Heart”, the Tom Petty cover “You Wreck Me” and the finale of “The Cowboy Rides Away”. Overall, I thought it was a great set that hit most of what you would want to hear from George Strait.  I highly recommend seeing him in concert at this point in his career. It’s well worth the expensive ticket.

To wrap things up, I had an amazing time at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for this show.  I have read about some sound issues with people on the floor, and others who were higher in the upper level that had their view of the big monitors cut off.  These are issues that the stadium will work on as time goes on. My section of the lower bowl had a perfect sound mix so I can’t complain. George Strait is touring more this year with shows like this and varying opening acts depending on the market.  For more info, check out his website for dates.

“The Cowboy Rides Away”

Ashley Mcbryde Setlist :

Livin’ Next to Leroy
American Scandal
Girl Goin’ Nowhere
Rattlesnake Preacher
A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega
Tired of Being Happy

Chris Janson Setlist :

Redneck Life
Fix a Drink
Good Vibes
Gonna Have a Good Time
Who’s Your Farmer
Your Cheatin’ Heart
(Hank Williams Sr. Cover)
White Trash / A Country Boy Can Survive
Everybody’s Going Through Something
Holdin’ Her
I Love This Life
(LOCASH cover)
Piano Man
(Billy Joel cover)
Drunk Girl
Buy Me a Boat

Chris Stapleton Setlist :

Midnight Train to Memphis
Nobody to Blame
Hard Livin’
Fire Away
Might as Well Get Stoned
Was It 26
(The Charlie Daniels Band cover)
Whiskey and You
Broken Halos
Second One to Know
I Was Wrong
Free Bird
(Lynyrd Skynyrd cover)
The Devil Named Music
Outlaw State of Mind
Death Row
Tennessee Whiskey
(David Allan Coe cover)

George Strait Setlist :

Write This Down
I Can Still Make Cheyenne
I Saw God Today
Here for a Good Time
She’ll Leave You With a Smile
Check Yes Or No
You Take Me For Granted
(Merle Haggard cover)
Are the Good Times Really Over (I Wish a Buck Was Still Silver)
(Merle Haggard cover)
Cold Beer Conversation
How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls
Arkansas Dave
Give It Away
It Just Comes Natural
Every Little Honky Tonk Bar
Ocean Front Property
Blue Clear Sky
The Weight of the Badge
God and Country Music
Amarillo by Morning
The Chair
The Fireman
I’ll Always Remember You

All My Ex’s Live in Texas
I Cross My Heart
You Wreck Me
(Tom Petty cover)
The Cowboy Rides Away

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