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Saying good-bye to old friends is suppose to be sad.

But George Strait's farewell tour at the EnergySolutions Arena on Friday night was clearly a celebration of the King of Country's legendary career — one that spans more than three decades.

After opening with "Here For a Good Time" and "Ocean Front Property," Strait acknowledged the significance of his final trip to Salt Lake City.

"As you know, it's probably going to be our last time here," he said, getting boos from the nearly sold-out crowd.

"Thank you for those boos," he said gratefully. "I'm really going to miss it. But we've got tonight."

Then, with the help of his 11-member Ace in the Hole band, Strait launched into a mix of both old and new favorites including "Check Yes or No," "I Saw God Today" and "Love's Gonna Make It."

Even though Strait is winding down his career, his children are continuing in the music business. Strait performed "A Drinkin' Man" and "Arkansas Dave," both written by his son George Strait Jr.

"We just call him Bubba for short," said Strait, who was more talkative than in his previous concerts, reminiscing about his first recordings and songwriters he worked with over the years. In between stories, he would pound out song after song without much glitz and fanfare of his younger country colleagues.

For the concert, EnergySolutions featured an "in the round" set up, with the stage in the middle of the floor, which meant there wasn't a bad seat in the house. Both Strait and Martina McBride, who opened the show, lapped around the stage several times. Projection screens, hung from the ceiling, capturing both performers' emotions, smiles and waves.

During his performance, Strait reached back to 1981 for "Blame It on Mexico" then moved steadily forward to "80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper," "Honky Tonk Crazy," "Marina Del Rey," "A Fire I Can't Put Out," "The Chair," "Stars on the Water," "Give It All We Got Tonight" and more.

After years of devotion, fans couldn't help but hang on every word or simply sing along.

Near the end of the concert Strait gave away a new home to a veteran of the Iraq war from Cedar City and, of course, followed up with "Just Give It Away." He ended the show with favorites such as "Amarillo By Morning," "Unwound" and "Cowboy Rides Away."

For her 70-minute performance, McBride offered up more than a dozen of her hits, including "When God-Fearin' Women Get The Blue," "Wild Angels," "Teenage Daughters," as well as several covers including "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden" and "At Last"

While McBride is capable of headlining her own show, on Friday, she was clearly happy to be playing second fiddle to Strait.

"I'm so lucky," she said. "I get to tour with George frickin' Strait." —

George Strait

P Final Salt Lake City performance features three decades from his song book.

With • Martina McBride

Where • EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City

When • Friday, Jan. 25

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