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Strait concert passes $34.5 million — and still counting — for hurricane relief

September 13, 2017 GMT

On Tuesday, George Strait’s all-star “Hand In Hand: Texas” concert benefiting the victims devastated by Harvey joined the annals of benefit shows going back to George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh.

Before they’d even struck a note on Tuesday night, Strait and friends had raised $20 million, including $3.5 million from concert ticket proceeds and a match from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, concert promoter Louis Messina said.

By the end of the hourlong telethon tied to the concert, “Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Harvey Relief,” another $14.5 million had been raised. Donations were being accepted online throughout the night.

The list of causes that musicians have come together for include helping victims of famine, drought, terrorist attacks and storms, with events such as Live Aid, Farm Aid, the Concert for New York City and the concert for Sandy Relief.

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Once again, it was musicians leading the way — Strait, Miranda Lambert, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Chris Stapleton and the Ace in the Hole Band — to bring in the bucks for a cause.

Leading the way at the Majestic Theatre on Tuesday were Lovett and Keen, who opened the show with their acoustic guitars

The pair opened with the yodel classic “T for Texas” and “This Old Porch.” As Keen struggled to tune up, Lovett quipped, “The TV show will start pretty soon.”

Then Strait took the stage to deafening screams at 7:41 p.m. To sing the rollicking “Here For a Good Time,” which includes the lyric, “There’s no way of knowing what tomorrow brings.”

King George was having a good time. “I see a lot of my buds out here tonight,” he said.

He then called for all the gang to join him onstage. Lambert showed off her black leather vest, decorated with silver fringe and with the words “Texas Strong” on the back.

“We’re just waiting on the word from L.A.,” Strait said, as the musician awaited for a cue. Hollywood suddenly arrived with the appearance of actor Matthew McConaughey. He urged the crowd to scream for the TV audience that was just tuning in.

“Thank you to the rest of America for watching,” McConaughey said, addressing the TV audience.

Strait spoke from the heart during the concert about his beloved coastal stomping grounds.

“We’ve got a lot of hurt people in Rockport, Port A, Aransas Pass,” he said, urging people to donate.

The all-star cast then closed the telethon by singing Strait’s rowdy “Texas” and the inspirational “I Believe.”

The concert provided the finale to the “Hand in Hand: A Benefit for Hurricane Harvey Relief” telethon that was broadcast on multiple TV networks. The rest of the San Antonio show, which ran about two hours, streamed on Facebook Live.

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During the concert at the Majestic, which Messina Touring Group put together in 10 days, Strait performed “Amarillo By Morning” with Keen; he sang the barreling “Unwound” with Lovett; and “When Did You Stop Loving Me” with Stapleton.

Aaron Gillies and his wife, Kortney, sat just 11 rows back from the stage thanks to four-figure tickets that had been donated to the Army division at Fort Hood where he is a captain.

“We’re very privileged to be here,” said Aaron Gillies, 34, who deploys to South Korea in two weeks.

He was in Houston a couple of days after Harvey made landfall, helping to deliver water and food with other church volunteers from the Fort Hood area.

“We went where and when we could,” he said, describing helping to rescue a single mother and child from the second story of their flooded home.

“It’s pretty humbling to see the devastation. It was just people helping out where they could.”

Tuesday marked the first time the couple ever saw Strait in concert.

Orlando Cadena, a 6-foot, 4-inch cowboy from Benbolt near Alice, was impossible to miss in his sharply blocked black cowboy hat, western shirt, Wranglers and boots.

The 43-year-old former firefighter and law enforcement officer came to the Majestjc with his daughter, Noreen Cadena.

“I’m here to support the victims,” said Cadena, who has surveyed the damage in Rockport.

“The pictures don’t do it justice,” he said. “It’ll never be the same.”

Businessman Ronnie Urbanczyk, a concrete contractor from Spring Branch, sat dead center on the front row with his wife.

He donated $10,000 to the benefit — on top of sending some 20 power generators to the stricken Coastal Bend. He and his wife just saw Strait last week in Las Vegas.

“Any time Texans can help Texans out, you do it,” said Urbanczyk.

The national “Hand in Hand” event will benefit the United Way of Greater Houston, Habitat for Humanity, Save the Children, Direct Relief, Feeding Texas, the Mayor’s Fund for Hurricane Relief and Michael and Susan Dell’s Rebuild Texas Fund.

The Dells’ foundation will match dollar-for-dollar up to another $8.25 million any donations made at rebuildtx.org.

Gov. Greg Abbott said there was no doubt that the United States and Texas had shown the world how to respond to disaster, giving shout-outs to first responders and the Cajun Navy to screams of approval

“We shall rebuild Texas,” said Abbott.

hsaldana@express-news.net