Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Country music star George Strait performs the song Hear For A Good Time in front of thousands of fans at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth on Friday.
DULUTH -- Sugarloaf Parkway was bumper-to-bumper Friday night. Besides the usual end of the week drivers, thousands of George Strait and Martina McBride fans traveled to the Arena at the Gwinnett Center to watch the country music stars perform on their 11-stop tour to promote Strait's new album, "Here For a Good Time."
Many fans waited more than an hour in traffic to get to the sold-out show. Friends Gina Farrell of Atlanta and Carrie Sedgeman of Cumming were part of those in the jam.
McBride hit the stage around 7:30 p.m. -- the two women made it into the building after 8 p.m.
"We're here to see Martina," Farrell said. "But we had to grab a bite first because traffic was so bad."
Sedgeman added, "Martina has the voice of an angel, in my opinion. I think she sounds amazing."
McBride took the spotlight wearing all black and 6-inch patent leather stilettos. She walked, danced and sang around the square stage that was set up in the middle of the arena with a 360 degree crowd surrounding her.
The female vocalist belted out new songs, like "Teenage Daughters" and "I'm Gonna Love You Through It" from her latest album "Eleven," but she also sang some of her classic hits, "Anyway" and "Whatever You Say." She even performed "Wrong Again" as a special request for an anonymous fan.
By the end of her set list, McBride had the entire arena giving a standing ovation after singing "A Broken Wing," which brought tears to her eyes.
"I guess you guys can tell I love singing for you," she said before jumping into her final song of the evening, "Independence Day."
There were plenty of Strait fans in the crowd -- some with tickets from significant others, like Andrew Hoggle of Greensboro, Ala. His girlfriend, Ashley Keeler of Atlanta, bought the cowboy third-row tickets for Valentine's Day.
"I'm a huge (Strait) fan and I have most of his albums," he said. "It's a great gift, plus we have amazing seats."
A few minutes after 9 p.m., the house lights turned off and the stage light lit up. From one side of the arena, Strait's band entered the stage like they were getting ready for a boxing match.
Moments later, King George stepped out of the shadows with his signature 10-gallon hat, large belt buckle and button-up shirt. His fans shot out of their seats, snapped hundreds of pictures and screamed before he could even tune is guitar. Fans in the nose-bleed section came prepared with binoculars to get a glimpse of the legendary singer.
When the group was ready, Strait and the band opened with "Here For a Good Time," the title of his new CD.
Without hesitation, he went into the next song, the lover's tune, "I Gotta Get to You," then sang "I Saw God Today."
Strait and McBride's next stop is in Orlando, Fla.