From under the stage rose the man in black — black hat, black pearl snap — grinning wildly and prepared to entertain 60,000-plus people. Garth Brooks wrapped his three-year-long stadium tour in Houston, Texas, on Saturday night (Aug. 6), and his excited energy was matched — and then some — by the crowd inside the Texans’ NRG Stadium.
Quickly, the country icon launched into 2018’s lively “All Day Long,” followed by “Rodeo” (1991) and “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” (1990), and quickly, Brooks was glistening with rhinestone beads of sweat. He promised to deliver “the old stuff” — he knows what the people want — and he bounced around decades, at times seeming to take requests from signs in the crowd.
Perhaps the most hospitable entertainer in country music, perhaps all of music — Brooks worked hard to make each section of the crowd feel his love, throwing out more “heart hand” signs in one evening than Taylor Swift has in her lifetime. Though he was short two band members due to COVID-19, including a guitarist (promising opener and songwriter Mitch Rossell filled in nicely), the 60-year-old Brooks brought his A-game.
Racing across the stage better than artists 30 years his junior, he was even hard to keep up with at times, with an in-the-round stage set designed so he could face any corner of the room at any time, making the venue — an NFL stadium — feel almost intimate.
“Two Pina Coladas” and “I Will Sail My Vessel” became full-on singalongs, as did covers of “Amarillo by Morning” by Texan George Strait (the crowd loved this) and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark.” Brooks delivered two slow songs in a row (a big no-no, by his own admittance), but since they were “Unanswered Prayers” (a No. 1 hit in 1991) and “If Tomorrow Never Comes” (his first-ever No. 1 single, 1989), he was handsomely rewarded with cheers, rather than punished.
Brooks brings a large live band, a group of men and women — some of them Grammy winners, others Hall of Famers — he has long histories with, and it takes just as long to introduce them all, which he did across several songs (“Callin’ Baton Rouge,” “Shameless,” crowd-favorite “Friends in Low Places”). Between primal wails of glee, he thanked the “cats” who’ve made his career possible, including the fans themselves.
“Thank you for my life!” he remarked near what seemed to be the end of the show (it wasn’t).
“Houston, Texas,” Brooks shouted, followed by … something inaudible … over the roar of the crowd. ”YOU GUYS F–KING ROCK.”
A lengthy encore of crowd requests would cap this eventful night — oh, and an appearance from his sequin-adorned wife Trisha Yearwood, after a young man near the stage asked for Brooks to sing “Shallow” (the song, a Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga duet from the 2018 remake of A Star Is Born, is one the country supercouple cut a studio version of in 2020).
The proud husband then took the opportunity to make a “request” of his own, which led to Yearwood singing her 1991 hit “She’s in Love With the Boy.” This was another win with the crowd. She stuck around for Brooks’ “Standing Outside the Fire” (1993), letting him wrap his show solo, with a number of covers (Doug Supernaw’s “You Never Even Call Me by My Name,” Don McLean’s “American Pie,” Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”), pushing the full set time to over two hours.
Brooks acknowledged that the special night was “the close of a chapter for us,” but of course, “when a chapter closes, a new one opens.” Next up for the megastar is a five-show run of his Stadium Tour in Dublin, Ireland. He’s been busy off-stage, too — on Tuesday (Aug. 9), it was announced that Brooks will narrate a new docuseries about America’s national parks, which he also executive produced.
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