Boxoffice Insider: ’82 To ’22 Four Decades Of Strait On Stage

George Strait performs onstage at Chicagofest on Aug. 30, 1985, in Chicago.
Paul Natkin / Getty Images

There are performing artists with careers that have stretched 40 years or more, but few of them have remained active in the music industry the entire time without long periods out of the limelight. Fewer, still, are those who have not just remained active but are able, after four decades, to draw capacity crowds to any venue. That’s George Strait.

And the numbers tell the tale for the country music legend. The Pollstar archives contain box office figures that span all four decades, beginning with his first reported show in February 1982 at Texas Concert Hall in Baton Rouge, La., before a crowd of 550. That is quite a contrast to his most recent performance on March 20 with a sellout crowd of 79,456 at Houston’s NRG Stadium to cap the annual Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.
Box office reports from Strait’s career show an overall gross topping $655 million from 860 concerts – all staged in North American cities – and a total of 12,642,229 tickets sold. And those numbers will continue to grow as he has a show booked this month in Lincoln, Neb., and two in Texas where he will appear April 29-30 to celebrate the grand opening of Moody Center, Austin’s new arena.

Then, a stadium event in Kansas City is set for late July.

Looking back through the years at Strait’s career highlights as a touring artist, one of the most groundbreaking was the “George Strait Country Music Festival,” his multi-stage, multi-artist stadium extravaganza that brought the ’90s-era Lollapalooza-style touring concept to country music. Initially conceived by Louis Messina, then CEO of Pace Concerts, which produced the tour, the festival played stadiums from 1998 through 2000 and featured top draws like Tim McGraw, who was second on the bill all three years. Also on board were Kenny Chesney, Faith Hill, Dixie Chicks, John Michael Montgomery, Lee Ann Womack, Asleep at the Wheel and a host of others.

With 44 stadium dates reported those three years, ticket sales reached 2,071,514 for a box office haul of $84.8 million (valued close to $150 million today). That’s an average gross of $1.93 million per show with a daily ticket average of 47,080.

The festival’s fourth and final tour that followed in 2001 was scaled down slightly from the previous three years and included four amphitheater dates along with 12 stadiums.

Among the shows that year, Chicago’s amphitheater in the Tinley Park suburb, then known as New World Music Theatre, sold 21,206 tickets, while San Antonio’s Alamodome hosted over 45,000 fans.

Strait’s farewell to conventional annual touring with “The Cowboy Rides Away” tour in 2013-2014 was another major career event for him, although it did not signal any move toward retirement. Even though the next year, 2015, is the only one in all four decades without at least one performance logged in the archives, the year after is when he kicked off his Las Vegas residency at T-Mobile Arena. Since 2016 he has performed there 34 times, moving 561,636 tickets for an overall gross of $81.4 million.

“The Cowboy Rides Away” trek grossed over $100 million from 1,003,852 sold seats at 45 venues stateside during both years of the tour. The record-smashing finale at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas was attended by 104,793 fans on June 7, 2014. It remains the largest attendance ever reported for a solo headliner at a single-show stadium engagement worldwide.