George Strait and Willie Nelson teamed up for a very rare joint performance in Austin, Texas, on Friday night (April 29), and the night turned even more special when Strait surprised Nelson by singing “Happy Birthday” to him live on stage to celebrate his 89th birthday.
Strait and Nelson shared the stage at a show billed as “Strait From Moody Center,” which celebrated the grand opening of Moody Center, the University of Texas’ new 15,000-seat arena. The one-night-only event included performances from Strait, Willie Nelson & Family and Randy Rogers Band, and since April 29 marked Nelson’s birthday, Strait led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to his fellow country icon, ending by saying, ” Happy Birthday Willy!” Also notable was that Nelson wore a matching felt cowboy hat like Strait’s to return to the stage.
Strait also joined Nelson for a joint performance of “Sing One With Willie,” as well as “Pancho and Lefty,” the Townes Van Zandt classic that Nelson took to No. 1 when he recorded it as a duet with Merle Haggard in 1983.
After an energetic show warmup from Randy Rogers Band, Nelson took the stage for a seated, but full performance set, during which he was grinning ear-to-ear as the crowd played off of his songs. The octogenarian delivered the expected favorites — “On the Road Again,” “Always on My Mind,” “Whiskey River” — and repeatedly confirmed that he was enjoying the cheers from his fellow Texans, remarking several times, “I hear you!” He also played a new one, “I’ll Love You Till the Day I Die,” a song that was penned by Chris Stapleton and Rodney Crowell and appears on Nelson’s just-released new album, A Beautiful Time (April 29).
Nelson has been getting back out on the road little by little as the pandemic eases, and although Strait retired from touring in 2014, he still performs for his fans sporadically, including this two-night venue opening in the capital of Texas. The King of Country entered to an instrumental “Deep in the Heart of Texas” (Gene Autry) and offered up a two-hour set on this night, which included staples “Check Yes or No,” “Marina del Rey,” “Give It Away” and “The Chair,” among many others, as well as a plug for his tequila brand, Codigo, and a special moment honoring a military veteran who was injured in the line of service.
Strait extended his Strait to Vegas series of performances at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas earlier in 2022, and he recently performed a one-night Strait to the Natural State show at Simmons Bank Arena in Little Rock, Ark. He also played a return engagement at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March, marking his 31st performance at the event.
Most recently, Strait has announced a special two-night stand in his home state of Texas. The country legend is slated to perform back-to-back nights at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth on Friday, Nov. 18, and Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, with Tenille Townes joining him as his support act.
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