Last July, Garth Brooks was forced to make a last-minute cancellation of his show at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium when dangerous weather conditions rolled through just before he was supposed to go onstage.
The possibility of rain and storms hung in the air for the country star’s first of two rescheduled Stadium Tour dates on Friday, but Brooks wasn’t going to be thwarted this time.
“I’ve never seen rain like that,” Brooks told the crowd in Nashville at the beginning of his set. “Thank you for giving us a second chance!”
This stop of the Stadium Tour was an efficient, lean machine. There were no openers, making for a Brooks-centric exercise in fan service that brought all the classics — from his debut single “Much to Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” to the drinking sing-along “Two Piña Coladas” — and cleared out the crowds before any weather had a chance to turn nasty. Fool me once, as they say.
That commitment to giving the people what they want is at the heart of the Brooks experience: Many fans in the crowd had been coming to see him since his imperial Nineties reign and are now bringing their children and grandchildren into the mix. The in-the-round design of the show placed a giant gazebo-like platform near one end zone, with Jumbotrons mounted atop its four tall columns, guaranteeing everyone the ability to see what was happening no matter where the always-in-motion Brooks happened to be standing.
Brooks kept referring to the audience as “70,000 people,” a figure evidently spread across both nights as none of the club or upper-tier seats at the 67,000 capacity Nissan Stadium had been offered for sale. It had the effect of making the massive space feel more intimate.
The setlist alternated between bangers like “Rodeo” and signature ballads like “The River,” with Brooks occasionally pausing to play a truncated acoustic version of a fan request like “To Make You Feel My Love” or “Ask Me How I Know.” Dressed in a black t-shirt that read “Just LeDoux It” — a nod to Brooks’ hero, the late singing rodeo star Chris LeDoux — and sporting his ever-present headset mic, Brooks roamed the wings of his stage to face all sides, frequently stopping to catch his breath between songs.
“I gotta slow my heart rate down a little bit,” he said at one point.
During more uptempo moments like “Two Piña Coladas” and the dirty honky-tonk of “Papa Loved Mama,” it’s possible to trace Brooks’ influence to other country stadium headliners like Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown, and even Luke Bryan. In his slower numbers like “Unanswered Prayers” or “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” where fan voices ring out in unison with Brooks, he has a gift for making it seem like he’s singing to an audience of one. He does both very effectively — and basks in the adoration it earns him.
The night’s biggest singalong came with “Friends in Low Places,” which Brooks introduced as “a song that might be the name of a bar downtown,” a nod to his plans to open a Lower Broadway honky-tonk. He doesn’t do any of the risk-prone jumping and harness-flying that he once did, but he still has a hammy sense of theatricality that works in giant spaces, earning enthusiastic applause from the audience as he side-galloped across the stage during the big rock & roll finish to “Low Places.”
The main set, as usual, concluded with “The Dance,” followed by short covers of Billy Joel and George Strait, plus a Trisha Yearwood appearance to sing A Star Is Born’s “Shallow” and “Walk Away Joe.” Fans were sent home after a rousing, full-band rendition of “Standing Outside the Fire,” another in Brooks’ many exhortations to seize the moment and have the courage to love. Fans draped arms around one another, couples kissed, everyone lifted their voices.
In Brooks’ mind, it’s all done for them. He recounted a press conference where someone had asked him who he was singing for this evening. He made the dubious claim that this show hadn’t even been thought of two weeks ago before they added it, but reiterated his primary directive: “These are the people that mean something to me, and I can’t thank you enough for showing up.”
This time, the fans were out of the stadium and headed elsewhere before the first raindrops fell.
“All Day Long”
“Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House”
“Beaches of Cheyenne”
“If Tomorrow Never Comes” (acoustic)
“Two Pina Coladas”
“To Make You Feel My Love” (acoustic)
“Fishin’ in the Dark” (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band cover)
“Ask Me How I Know” (acoustic)
“Papa Loved Mama”
“Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”
“Calling Baton Rouge”
“Friends in Low Places”
“She’s Every Woman”
“Piano Man” (Billy Joel cover)
“Amarillo By Morning” (George Strait cover)
“Shallow” with Trisha Yearwood (Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper cover)
“Walk Away Joe” with Trisha Yearwood singing lead
“Standing Outside the Fire”