Garth Brooks made his triumphant return to the concert stage in Chicago Thursday (September 4th), treating fans at Allstate Arena to a 24-song set which included old favorites ("Papa Loved Mama," "The River"), new tunes from the country icon's upcoming album ("Man Against the Machine," "People Loving People"), and a solo performance from his wife, Trisha Yearwood. The couple also performed together, and while it may have been Brooks' big comeback, his better half got top-billing on the concert t-shirts, which read "Trisha Yearwood World Tour," with the words "…with Garth Brooks" in much smaller type.
Long reluctant to release his music digitally, it's appropriate that the first song Garth performed on returning to the concert stage in Chicago was the new track, "Man Against the Machine." This week, Garth finally announced plans to enter the digital marketplace by offering his catalog of albums through the just-launched online music service GhostTunes.
Garth's emotions appeared to get the better of him during "The River" and "Unanswered Prayers." He was visibly moved by the crowd reaction as he let the audience sing those songs back to him.
One of the fans in attendance for Brooks' two-hour show was Lady Gaga, accompanied by her boyfriend, Chicago Fire star Taylor Kinney. The pop superstar posted an Instagram photo of herself with Kinney, who was singing "Friends in Low Places" in her ear.
Other hits Brooks delivered on the tour's opening night: "Two of a Kind (Workin' on a Full House)," "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up") and "Callin' Baton Rouge," which was on the country charts 20 years ago this month.
Brooks joked that in the "318" years since last playing Chicago, he's aged a bit. "I'm really 107 years old," he said. "I can't sing like this for 11 nights straight." He also teased that it should be called the "official Wheelchair and Walker tour."
Opening-night jitters? Before taking the stage for the first of 11 shows in Chicago, Brooks was quoted as saying, "The crowd is very sweet here. Hopefully they'll be very forgiving because tonight's show is gonna suck. You want this to be the worst show of the tour. You want them to get better every night."
With no backdrop obscuring the view, audience members saw what looked like a giant atom onstage, rising and rotating during the show's encore, which include Brooks' cover of Aerosmith's "The Fever" and an acoustic rendition of Yearwood's "Walkaway Joe."
Brooks and Yearwood played multiple shows in Chicago during their 1997-98 tour, as well. But this time, they were treated to a special honor as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared September 5th Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood Day in the state.