“Nashville knows its country music. So when you play a gig here, you have to be at your best,” Garth Brooks said during an hour-long press conference before taking the stage at Nissan Stadium in Nashville to the first of two nights. .
Even hours before the show, the Country Hall of Famer’s emotions were running high as he prepared for his highly anticipated return to Music City after a rainstorm last summer.
“If I was at that show that went down the drain, where we had 70,000 hot, sweaty people at (Nissan Stadium) with a no-mask COVID protocol, I would’ve (not been back),” Brooks said, adamantly. This event kicked off under overcast skies with Chris Young, Emmylou Harris and Brooks’ wife, Trisha Yearwood. Spectators sheltered in the stadium halls until 90 minutes later when the show was canceled altogether.
While briefly reflecting on last year’s concert that wasn’t (for which 70,400 tickets were refunded), Brooks began to openly cry. “Coming home (from the stadium) was horrible. People were walking around in water up to their knees, and there was nothing I could do. It was so hard to watch.”
Regarding the Friday night concert, Brooks added, “You never get a second chance at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
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Exceeding his fans’ expectations was key to Brooks’ performance on Friday night. Yes, the April 16 concert will once again involve a full Grand Ole Opry “mini” experience (as attempted in July 2021). However, he still wanted to make the 15th memorable.
It’s worth noting in this regard that if you were a fan of Brooks who demanded eye contact while holding up a sign in the crowd, he expressed more gratitude than usual.
During the press conference, Brooks noted that he had only toured majorly for 13 (1990-98, 2014-19) of his 33 years as a mainstream artist.
“Oh hey, so this sign says you’re seeing me for the 10th time tonight and you drove up from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Let’s see. The first time I played at Cape Girardeau was in 1989. And if you were at this show, then you heard me play this one”, he said
He then barked, tilted his white Resistol cowboy hat, gave a knowing smile and winked before launching into his 1989 single “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, his very first single. #1.
His trio of mega-hits, “The Thunder Rolls,” “Friends in Low Places,” and “The Dance,” were, as one might expect, three of his best performances during the night. And yes, he has acknowledged his soon-to-open Lower Broadway honky-tonk which is expected to include “showing up in boots to ruin black-tie business” in its published rules.
But, the live take of “The Dance” proved to be the most emotional of the evening.
Through his performance, he showed why he is in the pantheon of great live country music performers.
Bob Doyle’s piano solo intro and Tony Arata’s lyrics that night resonated more deeply in this regard. When Garth sang, “I could have missed the pain /
But I should have missed the dance,” it had a more universal impact than the lyrics to one of country music’s great songs of the last three decades.
The kinetic energy in the air allowed Brooks’ performance to have remnants of hair metal power ballads like Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” promise to “see a million faces and rock ’em all.” and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” being about how “every cowboy sings a sad sad song” present. It elevated this moment in Brooks’ catalog — to his live event fan base — to another level of deep connectedness.
The second half of Brooks’ concert saw him walking around his stage in circles, performing songs named on signs in the crowd. It also gave more golden moments.
That evening, the robustness of Brooks’ tenor’s deeper registers was remarkable and enjoyable on his 1995 hit “She’s Every Woman,” as well as another deeper track from the “Fresh Horses” album, “Ireland.” . “I love that you guys in Nashville are such big fans of my music that you know the lyrics to ALL of my songs,” he noted with a shocked smile and laugh.
Additionally, his undying love for one of his musical heroes, George Strait, was also apparent at this gig. Brooks singing Strait’s 1982 hit “Amarillo By Morning” is always a performance that reminds a viewer how deep his love of country music runs.
When he sings one of the great songs from the biggest hit artist of the genre’s radio era, the “everyone” part of Brooks’ appeal resonates most.
Toward the end of his two-hour gig, he brought in his wife, Trisha Yearwood, to perform their 2020-released cover of the soundtrack to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” film, “Shallow.” This was followed by Brooks backing Yearwood on his 1992 hit ‘Walkaway Joe’, and closing the show with Brooks’ ‘Standing Outside The Fire’, from 1993.
At that moment, Brooks’ eyes revealed the feeling that he had succeeded in his quest to have a big live event on a night that meant so much to him emotionally.
“When people start singing your catalog of songs to you, it’s like reliving the first time you heard yourself sing, so that’s new,” he said hours earlier. “Even if you know it’s happening, it still feels good.”