Courtesy of 8 Ten Inc.
Wednesday, May 24, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Moments after stepping onto the Colosseum stage for the opening night of his “Garth Brooks/Plus ONE” residency, the headliner made an astonishing revelation.
“I am the laziest guy you’ve ever met, and I’m the most unprofessional person around,” the country superstar said.
With that, he explained, his acoustic guitar needed to be tuned differently for the capacity-filled showroom at Caesars Palace than it had been for his rehearsals in an empty hall.
So, Brooks began to tune his six-string. Then he began playing and singing Bob Seger’s 1980 ballad, “Against the Wind.” A few bars in, Brooks interrupted his singing to tell the audience, “Gotta sound check this room.”
Midsong, he stopped playing to sing a cappella, “And I found myself alone. Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends. I found myself further and further from my home.”
He returned to strumming the guitar, and finished the song to a rousing standing ovation.
“People,” a beaming Brooks said, “the show hasn’t started. We’re just sound-checking still.”
Next up was a cover of Keith Whitley’s No. 1 1988 hit “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”
Again, another standing ovation and another admonishment from Brooks that the show still hadn’t started.
It might have been the first time in concert history where the sound check resulted in back-to-back standing ovations.
Ever the prankster, Brooks at that point walked over to the side of the stage, out of most of the audience’s sight. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the recognizable voice said over the Colosseum’s sound system. “Please welcome the greatest artist I’ve ever known: Garth Brooks!”
With that, Brooks — still by himself — bounded back to center stage and launched into his 1995 release, “She’s Every Woman.”
That song in the books, Brooks started talking about how this residency would differentiate from his 2009-2014 “Garth at Wynn” residency.
“The difference between this and that one-man show is,” he said, “the muscle.”
He explained that his 1991 hit “Rodeo” brings the muscle. It features, he said, a “nasty snare, growling guitars, a bass that drops down on you … all of a sudden it is on!”
At that point the stage curtain rose, revealing Brooks’ 12-member band. “Rodeo” and the show were on.
Over the course of the next 2 1/2 hours or so, Brooks brought the muscle, the showmanship and the hits that have made him one of the top-selling artists of all time and earned him scores of accolades and awards over a career that’s spanned more than 30 years.
Behind every song, Brooks had a story. And his stories were almost as entertaining as his songs. He gushed over how country music could elicit the highest highs and the lowest lows. He sang the praises of a host of other artists, notably the aforementioned Seger, George Strait and James Taylor, all of whom sang during Brooks’ 2012 induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
From his catalog, Brooks sang his debut hit, “Much Too Young (to Feel This Damn Old),” which he reminded the audience came about when he was embarking on what he thought would be a songwriting career with the hope that Strait would record the song. Strait never did record it, but he did sing it at the induction ceremonies.
Added in were other of Brooks’ standards, including “The Thunder Rolls” “Two Piña Coladas,” “Papa Loved Mama” (a song, he admitted, he rarely performed in concert but did so on this night because it was requested by an audience member whose husband had just returned from a military stint overseas) and “The Dance.”
Cover songs also were in abundance during the show, including Randy Travis’ “I Told You So,” Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning,” the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark,” and a spirited rendition of the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”
Brooks strayed from country to on several occasions to perform covers of Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word,” along with Seger’s “Night Moves” and “Turn the Page.”
The plus-one occurred mid-show when Brooks’ wife, Trisha Yearwood, joined him to sing Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow,” “Golden Ring,” first recorded by country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and Brooks’ “Whiskey and Wine,” before Yearwood took over on her own to perform her hit, “She’s in Love with the Boy.”
As you might imagine, the familiar songs also meant the night was filled with singalongs by the crowd, leading Brooks at one point to deadpan, “I absolutely hate singalongs. I do. It’s no fair when everybody sings along.”
Some 30 songs in, the night was winding down.
For his encore, Brooks turned to Billy Joel, singing his signature “Piano Man” but appropriating a verse to insert some of his own lyrics:
“It’s a damn good crowd for a Thursday, as the manager gives me a smile. ’Cause he knows that it’s me that they’re coming to see to forget about life for a while.”
Then came an animated version of the country standard, “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.”
The finale, of course, was “Friends in Low Places.” Brooks’ megahit that is known almost universally. Not that he had to, but Brooks did ask the audience to sing with him, noting “Y’all are my plus-one on this.”
From sound check to encore, “Garth Brooks/Plus ONE,” showed why Brooks can pack a showroom on dozens of dates.
— “Garth Brooks/Plus ONE” continues at 8 p.m. Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, with additional dates in June, July, November and December, along with newly announced dates in 2024. For ticket information, go to ticketmaster.com/garthvegas.