“Nashville knows its country music. So when you play a concert here, you’re required to be your best,” Garth Brooks remarked at an hour-long press conference before taking the stage at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium the first of two nights.
Even hours before the show, Country Hall of Famer’s emotions were running high as he prepared for his eagerly awaited return to Music City after a rainstorm last summer.
“If I was at the show that was figured out where we had 70,000 hot, sweaty people in (Nissan Stadium) with a maskless COVID protocol, I would (not come back)” Brooks said blankly. That event started under cloudy skies with Chris Young, Emmylou Harris and Brooks’ wife, Trisha Yearwood. Concertgoers protected themselves at the stadium until 90 minutes later, when the show was canceled.
While briefly reflecting on last year’s concert, which was not the case (for which 70,400 tickets were refunded), Brooks began to cry openly. “The drive home (from the stadium) was awful. People were walking around in shallow water and there was nothing I could do. It was so hard to see.”
As for Friday night’s concert, Brooks added, “You never get another chance for a once-in-a-lifetime chance.”
Garth Brooks:Country music star announces second date for 2022 Nissan Stadiums return
Garth Brooks:Country music star opens a bar on Lower Broadway
Exceeding his fans ‘expectations was the key to Brooks’ performance on Friday night. Yes, the April 16th concert will involve a complete “mini” Grand Ole Opry experience again (as attempted in July 2021). However, he still wanted to ensure that the 15th was memorable.
Remarkable in this regard is that if you were a fan of Brooks’, who demanded eye contact by holding a sign up in the crowd, he extended more gratitude than usual.
At the press conference, Brooks noted that he had only made major tours in 13 (1990-98, 2014-19) of his 33 years as a mainstream artist.
“Oh hey, so that sign says you’re seeing me for the 10th time tonight and that you drove here from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Let’s see. The first time I played Cape Girardeau was in 1989. And if you was for that show., then you heard me play it here, “he said
Then he shouted, toppled his white Resistol cowboy hat, gave a knowing smile and blinked before launching his 1989 release single “If Tomorrow Never Comes”, his first number 1 single ever.
His trio of megahits, “The Thunder Rolls”, “Friends in Low Places” and “The Dance”, were, as one might suspect, three of his stronger performances during the evening. And yes, he acknowledged his soon-to-be-opened Lower Broadway honky-tonk, which should include “showing up in boots to ruin black-tie affairs” in its up-and-coming rules.
But the live version of “The Dance” proved to be the most touching of the evening.
Through his performance, he showed why he is in the pantheon of great live country music artists.
The Bob Doyle-made piano solo intro and Tony Arata’s words this evening resonated deeper in that regard. When Garth sang: “I could have missed the pain /
But I would have had to miss the dance, ‘it struck more universally than just the words from one of country music’s great songs from the last three decades.
The kinetic energy in the air made it possible for 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 them all” and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn “is about how” every cowboy sings a sad, sad song “present. It lifted this moment in Brooks’ catalog – to his live event fanbase – to another level of deep connection.
The other half of Brooks’ concert saw him walk around his stage in the round and perform songs named on signs in the crowd. It also yielded several golden moments.
This evening, the robustness of the deeper registers of Brooks’ tenor was remarkable and entertaining on his 1995 hit “She’s Every Woman” plus another deeper “Fresh Horses” album, “Ireland”. “I love how you in Nashville are so fans of my music that you know the words to ALL my songs,” he remarked with a shocked smile and laugh.
Moreover, his enduring love for one of his musical heroes, George Strait, was also evident during this concert. Brooks sings Straits 1982 smash “Amarillo By Morning” is always a performance that reminds a concertgoer of how deep his love of country music goes.
When he sings one of the great songs by the greatest hit-making artist of the genre’s radio era, the “everyone” part of Brooks’ appeal is most resonant.
Near the end of his two-hour concert, he picked up his wife, Trisha Yearwood, instead of performing their 2020 release cover of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” movie soundtrack hit “Shallow”. It was followed by Brooks, who accompanied Yearwood on her 1992 hit “Walkaway Joe”, plus she ended the show with Brooks’ 1993 “Standing Outside The Fire”.
In that moment, Brooks’ eyes revealed a sense that he had been successful in his quest to have a great live event on an evening that meant a lot to him emotionally.
“When people start singing your catalog of songs back to you, it’s like reliving the first time you ever heard yourself sing, so it’s new again,” he said a few hours earlier. “Even though you know it’s coming, it still feels good.”