You will be hard-pressed to find someone who enjoys a Garth Brooks concert more than Garth Brooks. Of course that makes the audience, who already loved him, just love him that much more; and this feedback loop of us loving Garth, loving us, loving Garth rises to an ear-shattering, heart-pounding crescendo that makes his shows such a legendary experience.
Such was the case at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Friday night as Garth logged his second of four consecutive sold-out shows in the arena. For nearly two-and-a-half hours the country music megastar ripped through his greatest hits catalog, mixed in a few tracks from his new album, and even ceded the stage for four songs to his lovely and talented wife Trisha Yearwood.
This marks a comeback tour of sorts for Garth who, aside from a semi-regular gig in Vegas, has spent the better part of two decades off of the road raising his daughters. He seems determined to make up for lost time as he whooped, hollered, sprinted, and sweated his way through some of country music’s most iconic songs of the past 20 years.
For myself, Garth Brooks is the most demystified celebrity around. At roughly 15 years my senior, Garth grew up only a handful of miles from where I did. We both attended Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!) and Garth cast a shadow over my formative years as the hometown-boy-made-good.
In Garth’s goofy, aw-shucks, life-of-the-party stage presence I see traces of friends and family I have known my whole life. Garth’s just the guy who put it all together and somehow turned it into international fame and fortune. I’ve never loved Garth Brooks, but I’ve always respected the holy hell out of the guy.
His music has been a little too on-the-nose and pop-country for my tastes, but after seeing him live, I have to admit that my respect has blossomed into full-blown admiration.
There is no denying that he has recorded some truly great songs. “Friends in Low Places” will be played in bars in mining colonies on Jupiter’s moons. Garth still brings it with rockers like “Rodeo” and “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” and pours every last drop of emotion into weepers like “The Dance” and “Unanswered Prayers.”
But first and foremost, Garth is a showman. Famous for bringing arena-rock spectacle to the starched and stuffy world of country music, the man can work a crowd as well as anyone you will ever see. You get the feeling that he would take personal offense to anyone walking out of the place not grinning from ear to ear.
He gleefully snatched up a personalized Cardinals jersey from a fan in the crowd and wore it for a good chunk of the show to the delighted, boisterous approval of the hometown fans. Garth knows what the people want and he is more than happy to give it to them.
Garth Brooks may be a little older and a little wiser since his last world tour, but he doesn’t seem to have missed a beat. With the help of a tight and lively backing band, he delivered what would be considered an energetic and enthused performance for a man half his age.
Garth loves the limelight and his fans love seeing him there, and from the looks of things, this is a love affair with no end in sight. Party on, Garth.