By Tracy Roy/
George Strait can be summed up in one word: Classic.

In a snug pair of Wranglers, a cowboy hat and a warm smile, George Strait, just as you would expect him, gave his last Las Cruces show to a sold-out, record-breaking crowd of 12,962 fans Saturday night at the Pan American Center.

Strait's hits have permeated country music since 1981 and endured through the years. His first performance at the Pan Am was in 1986. This time, he came to say goodbye.

'Sixteen times I've played in this building,' he said. 'This is a little bittersweet.'

Saturday's show sold out in two hours on Oct. 12, grossing $1,122,273 in sales, according to NMSU Special Events Director Scott Breckner.

Strait, who turns 61 on May 18, announced he was quitting the road - but not his music career - last September.

'This is going to be a very special, emotional tour for me,' he said then. 'Everywhere we're going holds fond memories and I'm looking forward to paying my respects.'

Louis Messina, Strait's longtime tour promoter, said Strait first started talking about retiring from the road after that 2011 tour with McEntire.

'We did our normal tour of January, February and March, and we did October, November and December, and he goes, 'Man, I feel like I didn't have any time off,'' Messina recalled. 'Touring takes a lot out of you. It really does. ... It was a discussion for a long, long time.'

Messina, who is based in Austin, believes that Strait's 60th birthday in 2012 and the birth of his grandson, George 'Harvey' Strait III, led to his decision to hang up his touring boots.

Strait and his Ace in the Hole Band will play 21 shows this year, between the Jan. 18 opener in Lubbock and the June 1 finale before 70,000 people in San Antonio, near Strait's hometown of Poteet. Messina said another '20 to 22' shows next year will be announced 'soon.'

Saturday night, a video montage of Strait through the years, accepting awards and performing, welcomed him to the stage. Country-music colleagues - Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Reba, Ronnie Dunn and tour companion Martina McBride, among others - each recalled what Strait and his music meant to them through the decades in the video.

He opened with 'Here For A Good Time' and 'Ocean Front Property' before addressing the crowd.

'Woo-yeah! That's what I'm talkin' about,' Strait shouted with a grin, in response to the standing roar that welcomed him. 'I love Las Cruces. I guess I don't have to ask how y'all are doing tonight.'

The concert was nostalgic, with the first round of a generous setlist including 'Check Yes or No,' 'I Saw God Today,' 'Love's Gonna Make It Alright' and personal favorite 'The Fireman.'

Special guest McBride warmed up the crowd for Strait.

More sophisticated than the first time I saw her in 1994, but as all-American as ever, McBride has the poise and confidence of a best girl friend you'd call for relationship advice or a home-cooked meal.

Sporting a pair of skinny jeans, three-buckle mid-calf boots and a silver sequin shirt, Martina McBride took the stage in style with an explosive performance that included 'Wild Angels,' 'Teenage Daughters,' 'I Love You' 'Anyway,' 'Love's the Only House,' This One's For the Girls' and 'Independence Day.'

'We are very honored to be here on this historic event,' she told the crowd. 'I am the luckiest girl in the world because I get to tour with George Freakin' Strait. It's pretty awesome.'

McBride has 11 studio albums, seven of them Gold, multiple CMA and ACM awards and more than 14 million in album sales.

Her performance started slow, but the energy picked up in the second half of the set. A standing ovation to her song 'Broken Wing' nearly moved a surprised McBride to tears.

She threw in a mashup of Rod Stewart's 'The First Cut Is The Deepest' and Tom Petty's 'Free Fallin',' which was well-received by the crowd.

During Strait's set, he called McBride back to the stage, and in a clear nod to the late Johnny Cash they sang a duet of 'Jackson.'

Strait promised old songs, and, pulling out a stool, delivered 'Blame it on Mexico' '80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper,' 'A Fire I Can't Put Out,' 'The Chair' and took a quick visit to 1993 with 'Heartland' from the 'Pure Country' soundtrack.

Mid-concert, retired general and CEO of The Military Warriors Support Foundation Leroy Sisco took the stage to present a key to a new home for veteran Freddy Gutierrez, a former U.S. Army gunner and convoy security member previously deployed to Iraq. Gutierrez was injured in a roadside bomb attack.

Gutierrez and his wife will also receive a flat-screen television, groceries for a year and copies of every George Strait album. Sisco said this is the Homes 4 Wounded Warriors nineteenth giveaway of homes totaling $4.4 million.

Strait later moved on to 'Give It All We've Got Tonight,' the current single from his 28th studio album 'Love Is Everything,' set to be released May 14.

A tribute to his fans, 'I'll Always Remember You,' was a moving element of a tour that bids farewell to a true blue country-music legend.

'I hope you won't forget me...I'll always remember you,' he told the crowd. 'You won't be far away. I'll still hear your cheers and screams.'

A few songs later, Strait and his band exited the stage. The arena went dark on a screaming crowd.

Returning moments later, an encore included 'Same Kind of Crazy,' 'All My Exes Live In Texas' and an incredible cover of Cash's 'Folsom Prison Blues.'

Leaving us with 'The Cowboy Rides Away,' the King of Country sauntered off the Pan American Center stage for good.

The last goodbye is, indeed, the hardest one to say.