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In concert: Reba McEntire and George Strait

Reba McEntireIf Reba McEntire wants you to cry, you'll probably shed a tear. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

By Dave McKenna

Reba McEntire, star of movies and sitcoms and Broadway, has returned to the medium that launched her. She dominated Friday's 4-1/2-hour bill at the 1st Mariner Arena, appearing between Lee Ann Womack and George Strait.

Reba brought out opener Womack and got the crowd fired up during a duet of "Does He Love You," the woman-confronts-the-other-woman tune that would make a fine theme song for Tiger Woods's harem. She gave everybody belly laughs by bringing out Melissa Peterman, co-star of the "Reba" sitcom, to help out on that show's actual theme, "I'm a Survivor."

Reba retains her otherworldly tearjerking powers. She got folks bawling with the housewife's existential crisis tune, "Is There Life Out There," on lines as simple as "She just looks out her window and wonders." She kept things moist by channeling Kelly Clarkson's family dysfunction while covering "Because of You." And by the last couplet of Reba's own father/daughter melodrama, "The Greatest Man I Ever Knew" - "He never said he loved me / Guess he thought I knew" - if you ain't weepin', you ain't listenin'.

(Strait's still classic country cool, after the jump.)

Reba McEntireGeorge Strait: cool as ever. (Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post)

The set design, a square stage set in the middle of a very vertical arena, did nobody any favors. No matter where you sat, camera flashes from fans on the other side of the stage were in your face; between that and all the pedestrian traffic in everybody's sight lines, it was often like watching a show in the I-95 Mixing Bowl.

Reba, perhaps in deference to the closing act, played it pretty, well, straight. She limited herself to one costume change on the night, but what a doozy it was. After going frills-free in a sleeveless blouse and denim ensemble for the first hour, Reba was ridden to the stage in a big yellow taxi for her encore, popping out in a glittery red dress and heels to belt out "Fancy," Bobbie Gentry's tale of an unrepentant prostitute. Gorgeous George never made a more flamboyant entrance. The packed house went nuts.

Whereas Reba pulled fans every which way, Strait and his marvelous Ace in the Hole Band just changed the tempo at which folks tapped their toes. There's never been as steady an entertainer who reached Strait's heights and just stayed there - he's charted more than 40 No. 1 hits, none that different from the others. Dressed in his normal ensemble of pressed Wranglers and ropers, Strait carried himself like the legend he is while introducing most of his latest CD, "Twang." Highlights included "Where Have I Been All My Life" and "Arkansas Dave," written by son Bubba Strait.

Strait's new material, with the same nods to Texas swing legend Bob Wills and the laid-back '70s country cool that he's always made, had none of the pop-rock flourishes favored by current country chart-toppers such as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. Yet, again, he's the legend.

By David Malitz  |  January 25, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: George Strait, Reba McEntire  
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I just want to say - This is George Strait's tour, Reba and Lee Ann are JOINING him. Why is it that this is the 2nd review I have read where Mr. Strait has gotten only 1 paragraph of review?? Reba is a major star in her own right, but this is not "The Reba Tour with George Strait". We are talking about the KING OF COUNTRY MUSIC here. Just my opinion. No disrespect intended for the writer or for Miss Reba... I love her music too.

Posted by: str8fan1 | January 26, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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