Garth Brooks is that rare artist that transcends genres, while still seeming to remain true to his roots. He’s a country singer of ‘Cowboy Songs’, he’s a troubadour in the tradition of James Taylor, and he’s a consummate showman onstage. Perhaps what gets lost in the spectacle of his current world tour is that Garth Brooks is one of the best American songwriters of the last thirty years.
Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood (a top-notch performer in her own right) stopped by Richmond this weekend to play an astounding four sold out shows in three days at the Coliseum. The stage was one that allowed every seat in the arena a view (even behind the stage) and Brooks, sporting his famous cowboy hat and headset mic, was so frenetic, running to all areas of the stage, that it was easy to lose sight of where he was actually standing. Yes, the stage, the presentation and Brooks’ persona were big, but it’s the songs that keep the fans coming back in droves some nineteen years since he last played the city.
In 1991 when his album ‘Ropin’ The Wind’ was released, I was a full blown Metal Head, more likely to be listening to Metallica, Overkill or Danzig. But, thanks to my friend Eddie, with whom I rode to school each morning of the 1991-92 school year, even I had to admit that Garth was one hell of a songwriter and performer. Literally every day for two months straight, our morning school commute music was side one of ‘Ropin’ The Wind’, so I got to know those songs very well, and I liked them.
Last night, as I was part of a raucous and loud sold out crowd who knew all the words to every song, I thought a lot about that senior year of high school and about my friend Eddie. Music is memory and the memories were very thick as I sang along to “Friends in Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls.” I felt very fortunate to see this show, and witness a performer who’s at that age now where he seems to fully appreciate all of the adulation and love his fans give him, and every night (sometimes twice in one day) for two and a half hours, he does all he can to reciprocate.
The setlist (mostly from memory, so apologies if it’s inaccurate):
Man Against Machine
Beaches of Cheyenne
Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House
Two Piña Coladas
Papa Loved Mama
Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)
The Thunder Rolls
In Another’s Eyes (w/Trisha Yearwood)
Trisha Yearwood Set:
XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)
How Do I Live
She’s in Love With the Boy
Garth Brooks Second Set
Callin’ Baton Rouge
Friends in Low Places
Wrapped Up in You
Standing Outside the Fire
In closing, it was a pleasure to see a performer who was genuinely having a blast on stage. Brooks and his band have been together for 20+ years and the sense of ‘family’ was palpable. This week was one of the most absurd, strangest weeks I have ever had (that did not involve a morphine drip). It was refreshing to simply be able to go out, have a good time, and realize that I had at least one thing in common with 11,000 other people in my city on a Saturday night. Music has a way of doing that, and I thank Garth for being the facilitator of that.
As always, thanks to Dana, and thanks to you for reading,