Garth Brooks, In Another's Eyes
April 14, 2016
I’ve been to a lot of Garth Brooks shows over the years, but hadn’t seen his latest tour yet. So the All Access Nashville team took a road trip to Louisville last week for his Friday, April 8th stop at the Yum Center there. Yes, the arena is called The Yum Center. Our Assistant Nashville Editor, Monta Vaden, has seen a bunch of Garth shows too, so she and I could tell you stories. But Editorial Assistant Briana Galluccio? Not only had she never seen the G-Man before, she wasn’t even born yet during his initial rise to prominence in the early 90s. That’s why it seemed like her experience from last week would be a helluva lot more interesting than mine. So here’s what two arena shows in one night looked like, through the eyes of a first time Garth concert attendee.
Hi, my name is Briana, and I was a Garth Brooks newbie.
First, my age. I’m 23 years old. To put that in perspective, I wasn’t alive when Garth released his debut self-titled album, “No Fences,” “Ropin’ The Wind,” and even “The Chase.” I was only a few months old when “In Pieces” was released, almost three years old when “Fresh Horses” came out, and I was eight when he retired. Take this into consideration when I tell you about my first Garth experience.
The second thing you should know about me is that I grew up pretty clueless about Country music; my parents never listened to it. My mom listened to Top 40 pretty much always, and my dad was much the same, except for he’d occasionally listen to Bruce Springsteen CDs in his car. When we were at home, it’d always be Sinatra. “My Way” was the anthem. But no Country. When I reached the age where you start figuring out what kind of music you like, I was never really passionate about anything. The music I listened to was a mix of Top 40 radio, songs they played at middle school dances, weird Euro Pop music my cousins and I listened to from summers in Italy, and whatever music my friends liked. That included artists like Usher, Maroon 5, The Fray, Avril Lavigne, Green Day, Hoobastank, and more. But no Country.
I was first exposed to Country music in high school, and I hated it at first. I was on vacation with friends who all loved Country music, and they forced me to listen against my will. I was surprised that, by the last day of the trip, I found myself liking it. I went home and listened to as much as I could. I had always been the kid that passively listened to what everyone around me was playing, but this was the first time I ever sought out music. By the time I was on the Country bandwagon, Garth Brooks was pretty much off the radio. When I discovered Country radio in 2010, the playlist was all about Sugarland, Lady Antebellum, Jason Aldean, etc. I knew the bare minimum about Garth Brooks until I was an intern at Greater Media Country WKLB/Boston and Garth was in town for his “World Tour.” Even then, all I really knew was a handful of songs with the false hope that I might get to go into the show after driving the station car around for four hours in the blizzard.
So now, fifteen months later, I finally got to see Garth Brooks. And it was way better than any experience I had imagined in Boston. We attended the press conference, both shows, and we even got to go backstage in between and hang out with Garth. We started with the press conference, which was intimate, and honestly, SO cool. It was the first press conference I’d ever been to, so I suppose that would automatically make it memorable, but it was more than that. Like I said, I didn’t grow up with Garth Brooks – I didn’t live through or hear about Garth the superstar. But here, it all started coming together in front of me.
The press conference was so natural for him, and I was impressed for a number of reasons. First, Garth remembered every single name. I can’t even remember someone’s name 0.05 seconds after shaking their hand, yet he remembered all the names of the reporters. Second, the way he answered the questions was kind of beautiful to watch. He listened thoughtfully, answered the initial question, expanded upon it with an explanation, and then connected it to the questions that were already asked. You could tell it was easy for him, but it was never once lazy. He’d probably been asked all of these questions a ridiculous amount of times, but he made each person feel like it was a great question that he was answering for the very first time. Third, I loved the way that Garth talked about Trisha Yearwood. He informed everybody that she would not be performing due to an illness, but he really said more than that. He referred to her as The Queen and Ms. Yearwood, and when he talked about her, you could hear the respect and love in his voice. He said that one of the many reasons he wished Trisha was there was because she always makes him look better, because she’s so eloquent and smart and beautiful –but most importantly, nice. That really stuck with me, how he stressed the importance of being nice. I could feel his infinite love for her when he spoke about her – and he even choked up once.
Let me preface my actual concert experience by saying this: I’ve never watched a concert in this way before, like I knew I was about to witness a legend. I went into it with a peaked curiosity, ready to observe just what it was about Garth Brooks that made everyone so wild. I’ve seen shows as the ultimate fangirl, singing along with every word and snapchatting every last second to my friends. I’ve seen shows as the radio promotion girl, exhausted and sunburnt, but happy to appreciate an amazing show from an equally amazing seat. But this was neither of those experiences, and I wanted to observe and learn as much as I could, especially having worked with Monta (who may or may not be Garth’s biggest fan) for almost seven months. Here are some of the things I observed:
Experience. Everyone coming to a Garth Brooks show is there for the experience. But I kind of knew that already. I mean, I’ve never seen a tour where the artist announces the dates and locations one city at a time, adding more shows as the demand calls for it. That’s not your normal concert. Getting Garth tickets seemed more special than finding a golden ticket in your Wonka bar. Concerts are always so great, because live music takes you to another place and makes you forget about everything going on in your life. But this was different – people had been waiting for this. This crowd waited nineteen years, to be exact.
Energy. Nineteen years had passed since Garth played Louisville, and you wouldn’t have known. When he took the stage, I would have believed he was still thirty. This is how I imagined it as it was happening: Take a Jason Aldean show. You know how it’s all fire and heat, shooting from the stage? Take that fire and heat, and put all of that energy into Garth Brooks, because instead of special effects, he brought that fire within him. And it was constantly being fueled by the energy and excitement of the crowd, that same crowd that waited nineteen long years to see him. That was some Energy, man, and if you think he let it go for even a second, you’re wrong. The first show was loud and full of excitement, but the second show was LOUD and full of EXCITEMENT. The fans brought more energy, and amazingly, so did Garth.
Entertainer. Within the first few songs it was evident to me why this man has won so many freaking Entertainer of the Year awards. Garth was constantly moving – running, jumping, climbing on things. He was constantly interacting with the crowd – getting them fired up like only a true entertainer could. There were moving conveyor belts on the stage. There was climbing of a life-sized atom. There were lights, smoke, and a moving set. There were big screens and old footage, which I personally thought was awesome. It was a montage of footage from the late 80s to early 90s, and it was pretty cool to see a young Garth backstage, planning the set and being harnessed to fly. The screen showed me why he was an entertainer then, and the performance in front of my eyes showed me why he’s still an entertainer now.
Environment. One of my favorite parts about the show was seeing how much joy Garth had. I’m sure it was partly because we were so close, but I could see every facial expression; I could see his beaming smile and his eyes, soaking it all up. It was like watching a kid play. The crowd also fascinated me. Like I said, they had all waited nineteen years to see him again, but it wasn’t the same crowd as nineteen years ago. It was a combination of both young and old, and it was amazing. Whether they were twenty or fifty, everyone was enjoying the show and singing along. On some songs, it seemed like the crowd was singing more than he was; like they needed him to lead them into it, and they’d take it off his hands for a while like a loaner. When he was introducing his band members, he would always stress that more important than their talent or their career was how nice they were. I realized that being nice is really important to him, and I really admired that. Garth’s memory of music is just as good, if not better, than his memory of people and their names. I’m sure all the Garth fans know how he ends shows by performing bits of songs on the posters he sees in the crowd. Having seen two shows that night, I was amazed at the number of songs he played that weren’t on the set list.
As if it weren’t surreal enough to see not one but two concerts AND attend a press conference, we were lucky enough to go backstage between the shows. I could go on and on about how cool it was, but what I came out of it with was the realization that at the end of the day, Garth is just a normal guy. It was like that guy on stage, that entertainer, was locked away for the time being. We all hung out, sharing stories, catching up, and just kind of shooting the shit. The whole experience felt like a dream. You know, that dream you have where you’re best friends with some celebrity you love? And you’re hanging out and chatting about something or other. And it’s the best, because you realize how nice they are, like if they weren’t a celebrity and your paths crossed, you’d totally be their friend. That’s how it felt. Garth was so down to earth, so humble, so normal, but most importantly, he was nice.
The entire experience gave me a greater appreciation first for Garth Brooks as a person, and second for him as an artist. I left Louisville wanting to hear more music and wishing I had been exposed to more of it; wanting to see more shows; and finally understanding the Garth Brooks phenomenon.