Garth, Trisha & All the Hits (11.12.16 @ Richmond Coliseum)

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. 

Photo by the author

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.

Photo by Dana Kiser

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

The River

Two Piña Coladas

Papa Loved Mama

Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)

Unanswered Prayers

That Summer

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


Georgia Rain

She’s in Love With the Boy

Garth Brooks Second Set


Callin’ Baton Rouge

Friends in Low Places

Night Moves

Piano Man

The Dance


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,


Theatre Review: CRUMBLE (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) by Shelia Callaghan

Now playing at The Firehouse Theatre is a production that I promise you is unlike anything else you’ll see in the city of Richmond. The Firehouse has always been a haven for funky, thought-provoking theatre and, ‘CRUMBLE (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)’ carries on in that fine tradition.

At its heart, ‘CRUMBLE’ is a story of neglect and disrepair. Janice [Christina Billew] is ‘a cantankerous, tedious pre-teen with bad hygiene and a mouth like a trucker’ and her Mother [Jen Meharg] is a woman ‘so deep in sorrow she can’t see past her nose.’ Janice escapes daily to her room to listen to music on headphones, dream of Justin Timberlake [played by Matt Hackman] and argue with her dolls. Mom busies herself cooking gourmet meals that her daughter won’t eat and dreams of Harrison Ford. They live in a rundown apartment house that at one time was a mansion but is now in great disrepair [personified by Frank Creasy]. While they all share the same space, each character almost always speaks in monologue, which suits the isolationism and alienation that every character is dealing with.

The Apartment speaks of past tenants and past glories while tolerating Janice and her mom. Janice and her mom are dealing with the loss of a loved one and, basically they don’t speak when they don’t have to. Mom leans on her sister Barbara [Lisa Kotula] for advice on how to ‘handle Janice’ but Barbara is as broken and lost as her sister.

The show is dark and it will make you think, it might even make you cringe. But, it’s not all bleak and dreary. The show has some very funny moments…just don’t expect the froth and sugar you might see at another local theatre.

I’ve not seen anything quite like this show. I highly recommend this if you’re a daring sort who’s looking to be challenged and pushed. The performances were great. Creasy provides the comedy just when the audience needs a moment to exhale, and Billew’s Janice is achingly nuanced and yet child-like in her excitement and wonder.

The overwhelming lesson I took away from seeing this show is quite simple to say, but at times difficult to execute: Parents, TALK TO YOUR KIDS!! No matter their age, or if you think they’re ‘fine’ and handling things well, TALK TO YOUR KIDS. You never know what they might be doing alone in their bedroom. And, the advice goes both ways: Kids, TALK TO YOUR PARENTS!! No matter how uncool you may think they are, or how unfair you may think they treat you, talk to them. They need you, and even if you don’t believe it now, one day you’ll realize you need them.

Say something before it’s too late.

[Directed by Bill Paxton. Playing weekends now thru March 20. Tix $25. Curtain at 8pm Thurs-Sat and at 4pm Sunday. or 804.355.2001]

Barry Hall