“Welcome to the end of the journey,” Garth Brooks told reporters at a 30-minute press conference prior to the first of seven shows in Nashville, where his three-year World Tour is concluding. On Saturday afternoon, Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood, on the eve of their 12th wedding anniversary, spoke emotionally about the lengthy trek, before taking the stage at Bridgestone Arena that night for an electrifying two-hour-plus show.
Roaring through nearly 30 songs, accompanied by a crowd that only cheered more loudly as a series of fan favorites were unleashed, including “Rodeo,” “Two a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House,” “The River” and “The Dance,” Brooks and company were buoyed by an arena full of background singers who often drowned them out. But not for lack of trying – joking about his age, the 55-year-old said at one point, “I’m like 84 years old,” noting that the only way he’d likely make it through the upcoming seven shows is for fans to pick him up and carry him. He needn’t have worried. When he wasn’t lobbing water bottles into the crowd or climbing the revolving metal platform surrounding the drum set, Brooks made a point to dust off deep cuts like “This Ain’t Tennessee” and the 20-year-old hit “She’s Gonna Make It,” suggested by fans’ homemade signs.
Coinciding with the final concerts, Brooks and his team are basking in a handful of simultaneous chart achievements, one of which Yearwood helped celebrate as she welcomed opening act Mitch Rossell back to the stage after she and Brooks performed the romantic “In Another’s Eyes.” Rossell is the writer of “Ask Me How I Know,” currently the Number One song at country radio and Brooks’ first chart-topper since “More Than a Memory” a decade ago. It is the superstar performer’s 20th single to hit the chart summit.
Brooks also sits atop the Nielsen BookScan chart with the Number One non-fiction book in the country thanks to his early-career book-and-music chronicle The Anthology, Part One: The First Five Years, which also gives him the Number One country album. Fittingly, Brooks’ first-ever Number One song, “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” peaked on December 9th, 28 years ago to the very day of the concert. During their time with the press, Brooks and Yearwood reflected not only on their past, and a tour that encompassed more than 400 dates, but also on what’s next when the arena lights dim behind them.
“Let’s talk about the things that you hope remain constant,” Brooks told Rolling Stone Country. “I hope I’m Mr. Yearwood, I hope my three children are healthy. Beyond that, I want to spend a lot more time inside the studio walls, I want to write, I want to get back to seeing Kent Blazy [his “If Tomorrow Never Comes” songwriter] every morning at 10, like we used to. Just having that, to know that you’re looking forward to that, and to get to hang out with new guys like Mitch Rossell. There’s a young lady named Ashley McBryde… I just want to hang around her and get her vibe, and get to feel that new songwriting kind of feel. My goal as a writer is to get to be what Bill Anderson has been as a writer in this town. Because you see him and he’s writing with guys his age and he’s writing with teenagers. Nobody puts walls up on him; he writes everything with everybody and anybody. That’s what a songwriter should be.”
Yearwood plans to continue her Food Network cooking show, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, and eyes a return to the recording studio as a solo artist in the near future. Looking back, she tells Rolling Stone Country, “To be able to say, as a performer, that I would be comfortable in an arena, I never would have thought. I didn’t give myself enough credit for the part I would be in this tour. It’s been incredible for me to find my place and to feel like I’m a cog in the wheel, a necessary cog. Garth is the entertainer of a lifetime but I’m definitely the most improved player.”
Brooks, Yearwood and company are booked for five more shows at Bridgestone Arena through December 23rd. In the holiday spirit, Toys for Tots will be collecting new, unwrapped toys, games, books and bikes outside each of the upcoming concerts.