One might assume, looking at the list of only 11 cities that George Strait and Martina McBride booked for their one-month mini-tour, that Wichita made the list because of McBride’s connections to the city.
But that’s not the case, Kansas native McBride said during a recent phone interview from her home in Nashville. When she was approached about the tour, she said, the tour dates were all already set.
McBride and Strait will perform Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena. The concert marks McBride’s first performance in Kansas since she double-billed a Hartman Arena show with Trace Adkins in December 2009.
It’ll also mark the first time McBride, a native of Sharon who spent her pre-fame years singing in nightclubs around Wichita, has performed in the new arena.
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“It’s time,” she said of her return to Kansas. “I’m really excited. I haven’t played the new arena, so that’ll be good.”
McBride toured once before — six years ago — with Strait, one of country music’s biggest stars. “The King of Country,” as he’s often called, just released his 39th studio album, “Here for a Good Time,” which was his third No. 1 album debut in a row. Strait, known for songs such as “The Chair,” and “Write This Down,” has the most No. 1 singles of any artist in history, including Elvis Presley, and has sold nearly 69 million records.
McBride’s list of accolades is lengthy, too. She’s a four-time CMA Female Vocalist of the Year and Grammy winner who has sold more than 18 million albums. McBride released her 11th studio album, “Eleven,” in October and has earned raves for her emotional single, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It,” a song about living with cancer.
When Strait asked her to join the tour, she said, she didn’t hesitate.
“I’m really happy to do it because it’s awesome. There are a lot of people out there who would want to be on this tour,” she said. “Just the chance to get to watch his show every night is reason enough to go.”
The tour features something new for McBride, she said. It’s performed “in the round,” which means that the stage is in the center of the arena, and the audience is seated on all four sides. Strait utilized that setup when he last played in Wichita with Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack for sold-out show on Feb. 19, 2010, shortly after the arena opened.
“It’s another thing to think about,” she said. “I have to sort of keep track of where I’ve been because I don’t want to favor one side or the other. You get a little lost occasionally.”
McBride opens the show with a 70-minute set that includes some of her most popular hits. At recent shows on the tour, her set list has included “Wild Angels,” “A Broken Wing” and “Independence Day.” She also advises people to “brush up on the new album so they can sing along.”
Her parents will be in the audience on Saturday, she said, as will her sister, who lives in Hutchinson.
When this tour ends at Kansas City’s Sprint Center on Feb. 25, McBride will begin planning a new tour that will take her to more intimate venues with 3,500 seats or fewer, something she’s looking forward to.
“We have been doing arenas for the past couple of years, and I had an opportunity to pick up a couple of dates last fall in a small theater,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to do this.’ It’s really intimate, and you can pace your show a little differently. I’m looking forward to trying to have a conversation with the audience and be able to bring in some older songs I haven’t done.”
The dates for the tour will be announced in April on McBride’s website, www.martinamcbride.com.