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Garth Brooks Is Still

A Force On Stage

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Garth Brooks performing at Talking Stick Resort Arena Oct. 23.
Photo by Andi Sanchez.

Garth Brooks pumping up the crowd at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Photo by Andi Sanchez.

Trisha Yearwood singing She’s in Love With the Boy at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Photo by Andi Sanchez.

Garth Brooks performing at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
Photo by Andi Sanchez.

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood singing In Another’s Eyes October 23 in Phoenix.
Photo by Andi Sanchez.

Garth Brooks performing at Talking Stick Resort Arena Oct. 23.
Photo by Andi Sanchez.
Nearly 20 Years Since His Last Appearance In The Phoenix Metro, Garth Brooks Wows The Crowd With His In-Your-Face Brand Of Country Music

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By Joey Hancock
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 30, 2015 — The thunder rolled as Garth Brooks stormed into Phoenix for the first of his six shows Oct. 17, after a 19-year hiatus from performing in the valley and fans were not disappointed as Brooks brought the same ferocious, “punch you in the mouth” concert as he did all of those years ago.

Brooks’ World Tour 2.0 was everything his fans have come to expect from the performer with the high-octane Brooks sprinting around the stage and giving the audience the same energy he has always been known for. Before the concert, Brooks said he was hopeful the crowd would be just as involved in the show as he is.

“Hopefully we are just going to come and throw it in your face and what I’m hoping is you throw it right back and if that happens then the fun is on and you can push the envelope,” Brooks said.

Pushing the envelope is exactly what Brooks did at the Oct. 23 show, as he jammed through his catalogue after opening with the title song of his newest album “Man Against Machine,” but quickly went into the back catalogue every fan remembers.

Brooks said during the press conference at Phoenix Children’s Hospital on Oct. 17 that playing the hits is what the fans want and he knows that.

“The setlist is if I don’t play this song are they waiting for me with a noose at the tour bus,” he said. “That’s how you start the set list and I go to concerts and the thing that pisses me off more than anything is when an artist comes into your city, I’m there, and they have this entire new album of songs that I’ve never heard before and they don’t play the stuff I came to love them for and that bugs me.”

Back in the 1990s, Brooks made a name for himself with great songs and shows, where he would fly over the crowd and sprint around the stage with reckless abandon.

Knowing that Brooks is now 53 years old, it was hard to imagine he would give off the same energy he had over 20 years ago.

That thought quickly went out the window, as the first note slammed through speakers and Brooks started running around the stage in Phoenix as if he had found some fountain of youth and he said that he will never outgrow that stage presence he had 20 years ago.

“Age starts to play in the picture, so instead of running around the stage sometimes the stage is running around you and it’s fun because you are never going to outgrow who you are,” he said.

Brooks gave himself a period of time to get back into shape and being able to run around the stage and give the fans what they expect from a Brooks concert.

“When we started in Chicago, I was giving myself four to six months to get back and after those months I was maybe half-way back,” Brooks said.

“I was fighting depression on how long it was taking me to get back, but somewhere around New Orleans, about a year in, I started to feel like I could do my job.”
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Pounding through the hits such as “The Thunder Rolls,” “Fever” and “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” three of his most energetic songs, Brooks made everyone in the audience feel like he was singing to them personally and constantly grabbed hands and pointed to people he saw in the audience.

Brooks said connecting with fans personally is a major aspect of every show he does and is one of the most important aspects.

“First concert I ever went to was Freddie Mercury and Queen,” Brooks said. “My high school sweetheart, Tammy Sherman, had surprised me with tickets and all I wanted to do in the 13th row was stand on my chair and all I wanted to do was have him look at me for five seconds and say, Thank you, because I was stupid enough to base some of the decisions in my life off your music as we do as teenagers.’

“It’s funny now that [when] you get to play, you just want to find each individual person and say, ‘Thank you, thank you for my life and [allowing him] to do for my family what my father did for our family growing up,’” he said. “I think that individual one-on-one thing is what it’s all about for me.”

Trisha Yearwood, a country megastar in her own right and the wife of Brooks, reiterated this sentiment.

“Sometimes we go out in the back of the arena and there has been some nights when I’m back there and I’m like, ‘I think he sees me,’” Yearwood said. “I think he makes everyone in that arena feel that way. I can do that in a 1,200-seat theater, but not a 16,000-seat arena and that’s a really cool thing.”

The main connecting-with-the crowd moment came towards the concert’s end, when Brooks started looking for signs in the crowd and found a couple next to the stage holding a sign saying they were expecting a baby.

Brooks began talking to the couple and then began to sing one of his favorite songs “Mom” to the couple as the crowd sang along.

Coming out of retirement, Brooks said he wasn’t sure how the new tour would be received and said he just hoped that half of the people who went to his concerts in the 1990s would show up.

“I think you know as a young artist you win your awards people come and see you and as an older artist it falls off,” he said. “That is just the bell curve that we all sit in. When we started this tour we thought if anyone would show up and if we could do 50 percent of the numbers we did in the 1990s and right now we are sitting at about 125 percent of what we did in the 1990s. So to blow those numbers out of the water makes us feel really good but to do it at 53 makes you feel a billion times better.”

Feeling grateful for the response to the world tour is how Brooks described the experience of the tour and said he is even more excited for how the music has transitioned to the younger generation.

“There is a level of gratefulness now at this age that is crazy because when you look out and see the people you hoped you would see again and then Ticketmaster is telling you that 48 percent of the people at this arena were 10-years-old or not born yet the last time you toured is pretty cool,” he said. “That means the music has made the leap.”

Twenty years ago smartphones didn’t exist and people weren’t watching concerts through their tiny screens.

“It’s one of the fizzy questions I can’t piece together,” Brooks said. “First off, you have an iPhone in one hand and now there are beers that are larger than I’ve ever seen before, so they have a phone in one hand and a beer in the other, yet they are louder than they have ever been before.”

Touring with Yearwood has allowed them to spend a lot of time together and it is one of the most important things about touring, Yearwood said.

“A lot of my friends [say], ‘I like it when my husband goes on the road,’” she said. “I really like to be with him and we are really best friends and really enjoy each other’s company. Coming up on 10 years of marriage we feel really lucky to get to do what we love to do and play music for a living and be together doing it.”

As the concert ended Friday night, Brooks took a moment to address the fans before he walked off the stage after his second encore and showed his gratitude for the audience for making him feel at home in Phoenix.

“It’s a joy to play this city because you people know your shit,” Brooks said.
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