Hearts and stars were big and bright Tuesday night, as humanity shone through in all those who came together from across the state for Texas’ contribution to “Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Harvey Relief,” an effort headlined by country music icon and Texas native George Strait at San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre.

“Hand in Hand: Texas” was part of the greater celebrity-studded telethon broadcast across the nation on all major networks that raised more than $44 million. Strait and his friends – Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Miranda Lambert, and Chris Stapleton – contributed more than $5 million through ticket sales. Texas’ $20 million effort and a matching grant by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation will benefit the Rebuild Texas Foundation, which is already going strong toward its $100 million goal.

Strait, alongside his Ace in the Hole Band, was accompanied by heart-centered contributions from his fellow Texas artists who sang their own emotionally bound songs and jumped onstage to join Strait in features throughout the evening.

Those fortunate enough to nab a ticket to the sold-out concert were welcomed by Gov. Greg Abbott who promised, “We will rebuild Texas,” to cheers from all sides of the theater. After reminding the nearly 1 million Facebook Live viewers to make a donation to the cause, Strait kicked off the evening with “Give It Away.”

“They made you feel like being from Texas was the strongest feeling ever,” said audience member Kelsey Johnson, a San Antonio native who came in from Fort Worth for the evening. “From the get-go George set the tone, with songs like ‘If It Wasn’t For Texas’ – it just made you so proud to be from this state.”

Johnson’s words embodied the empathetic tone of the evening, but also the resilience and perseverance evoked by the artists on stage. “It was a terrible thing that happened to our coast, but we are strong. I’m not sure people realize how strong we are as a state,” she said.

While classics such as “All My Exes Live in Texas” enlivened the crowd, the nature of the occasion kept the rhythm lighter and the tone venerating, with honorable tributes to those who lost lives, homes, and a sense of security as a result of Hurricane Harvey.  “Amarillo By Morning,” which Strait performed alongside Keen, was a crowd favorite among those soft-hued hits, understated and fitting in its delivery and the hope of a new day in Texas.

George Salinas, who attended the concert with his wife Sandra, has seen Strait perform on multiple occasions. This experience was far more intimate, he said.  “The performance was more powerful, he was giving up his time to do something for our state,” Salinas said. “It felt very surreal, just very organic.

“For many people, this represents the style of music that is Texas. That was huge in re-energizing the spirit,” Salinas said, adding that he was equally moved by Uvalde native and Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey’s cameo. “I felt it was powerful what he said about the fact that we can’t change what happened, yet we can still do our part – he framed it really well.”

The power of the evening pressed forth most fully in the final songs, featuring all five musicians on stage together, sharing lines from the inspiring “I Believe.”

There’s broken hearts that’ll never beat the same

Shattered lives still reeling from the pain

Of plans and dreams now gone

Oh, how do you move on?

 But I believe

There’s someone who’s looking after me

Lifting up one last time, Strait and his friends showed off Ace In A Hole’s chops in “Working Man Blues.” The night ended with a feeling of gratitude for coming together as Texans and honoring the cause for the sake of healing our brothers and sisters, the mothers and fathers, all in need as we rebuild Texas, hand in hand.

Concert attendees cross Houston street before the show begins.
Concert attendees cross Houston Street before the show begins. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report
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Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.