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George Strait / Reba McEntire / Lee Ann Womack
In Concert: Tampa Florida/St.Pete Times Forum
By: CSO Staff Journalist Connie Breeden
George Strait Photo: Anna Jones

Soon after taking my seat at the St. Pete Times Forum I found myself thinking that I was about to be entertained by country music royalty. Everyone knows that George Strait is the king, Reba McEntire is most often referred to as the queen of country, then there are many heirs apparent to the throne of country music and Lee Ann Womack is most assuredly qualified to be one of them.

Much to my delight the classic and classy Ms. Womack opened the show with the upbeat tune "Buckaroo". With a soft yet powerful voice she performed two of her hit songs, "I May Hate Myself In the Morning" and "He Oughta Know That By Now." I've often heard that dynamite comes in small packages and although she may be petite, don't let it fool you, she can certainly belt out a tune and hit those high notes, and she did just that on "I Hope You Dance."

Queen of country music, Reba McEntire, wowed the fans with her rendition of the Beyonce tune, "If I Were A Boy," followed by her own hit song, "Strange." She kept the audience captivated by telling a short story of her father working on the ranch, rodeos, and roping. "He did whatever it took to provide for his family," McEntire said.

With her beautiful and incredibly powerful voice she sang "The Greatest Man I Ever knew," and by the end of the song I had goose bumps and was reaching for Kleenex.

As one of the best journalist I have ever known once said, "McEntire always manages to eloquently articulate an extensive spectrum of emotion. The vocal range, the fire, the emotion; few singers are so adept at burrowing so deep into your feelings as instantaneously, and with such ease."

McEntire was joined on stage by opening performer Lee Ann Womack for the duet "Does He Love You." I do believe the arena roof was lifted a few feet before these two had finished singing.

The audience got a surprise when McEntire's co-star from the television sitcom "Reba," Melissa Peterman, who portrays the character of Barbara Jean, moseyed up on stage, making jokes and singing the theme song "I'm a Survivor." McEntire closed her show with beautiful songs written by two very special friends. "Because Of You" written by Kelly Clarkson and "I Keep On Loving You" written by Ronnie Dunn.

After she left the stage, the venue went crazy! The screams and chants became deafening. As the video "Fancy" appeared on the big screens, a yellow cab drove up to the front of the stage, and out stepped Reba in a beautiful red dress. This is one encore I won't soon forget as the magnificent McEntire left everyone breathless.

If ever there was an American Cowboy with a little "Twang," starched wrangler jeans, and a black felt hat, keeping country real, it would be none other than the king of country, superstar, George Strait.

This Texas Cowboy holds the record for the most number one singles in any genre, (more than fifty), and has more gold and platinum albums than any other country artist. So it was no surprise that Strait so easily charmed his Florida
audience of more than fifteen thousand enthusiastic fans, for more than two hours, singing his hits from past decades to present.

"Seashores Of Old Mexico" defiantly seemed to be one of the crowds favorites. A song written by Merle Haggard, "an ol friend of mine," says Strait. For me, I got a little teary eyed when Strait sang "The Breath You Take", a tune that happens to be my Mother's (Wanda McNeely) and my Om's (other mother, Cheryl Harvey Hill) favorite song. A verse from the chorus I admire so much is "Life's not the breaths you take / but the moments that take your breath away."

Strait took time to introduce his Ace in the Hole band before setting the venue on fire with "The Fireman" then cooling it down with "Ocean Front Property." His performance included the beautiful ballads "The Chair," "I Cross My Heart," and then he kicked it up a notch with "Heartland," and "I Can Still Make Cheyenne." He closed his show with "Troubadour." Then returned for an encore with "All My Ex's Live In Texas" and his rendition of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

After hearing Strait in concert, watching him embrace every word of every song with so much emotion, staying true to himself, and keeping the music so real, it was clear to me why it "Just Comes Natural" for the king of country.

As the stage lights went dark and the house lights came up, I found myself smiling and I think I smiled all the way home. Why not? After all I had every right to be smiling, I had held court with country royalty. King George, Queen Reba and a most beautiful lady in waiting, Lee Ann.


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