Garth Brooks Gives Fan a Prom Night She’ll Never Forget
If you were to look at a listing of great country music entertainers in the early 1990s, you would find Garth Brooks etched near the top of the list. Don’t look now, but it’s 2017. Still, after all these years, he’s the man to beat for the live concert experience.
Nowhere was this more apparent than his four-show stint at State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois. Sounds Like Nashville was in attendance for the early show on April 29, and though one might think a 3 p.m. crowd would pack less of a punch than a night crowd – in the case of Garth Brooks, you would be wrong. Dead wrong. And, he would spend the better part of two-and-a-half hours proving that he is still the king.
The afternoon did come with a warning, however. The singer opened up the show with a bit of his recent hit, “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance,” when he discussed the “rules” for the afternoon performance. Prepare for plenty of the classics, he told the capacity crowd, because he and his crew brought plenty of them.
Once again, that statement proved to be something of an understatement. The Country Music Hall of Fame member brought many of the hits that helped him to become an internationally-known music icon. “Two Of A Kind, Workin’ On A Full House,” “Rodeo,” and “The Beaches Of Cheyenne” were just a trio of the classics that brought the Fighting Illini crowd to its feet time and time again. One of the more raucous performances was his 1998 hit, “Two Pina Coladas,” which the entire crowd seemed to know both the words and the impromptu vocal mannerisms to.
He also delivered on many of his classic ballads, such as “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “The River,” where, on the latter, the crowd took over the song’s lyrics mid-stream, making for one of the more emotional moments of the afternoon.
Perhaps the high-water mark from a passion standpoint came when wife Trisha Yearwood joined him on stage for a powerful rendering of their 1997 chart-topper, “In Another’s Eyes.” The ever-glorious Yearwood then took center stage for a few songs, including “How Do I Live,” “She’s In Love With The Boy,” and her 1992 classic, “Walkaway Joe,” which stands with the best of any female vocalist in the format’s history. All throughout her performance, it was inspirational to watch Brooks playing back-up to Yearwood. Yes, he is clearly smitten with his wife–that’s for certain. But, it’s also clear that he just happens to be perhaps her biggest fan, a distinction I am sure he would have no problem admitting.
Brooks wound down the afternoon with a lively romp through “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” and took each person in the crowd back to the fall of 1990 with a song called “Friends In Low Places.” When you hear the song on the radio in recorded form, it’s a moment that might get lost in the wonders of a “Power Gold” formation. Live in concert, it’s another matter. He approaches the song with the drive that he did originally twenty-five years ago, complete with the infamous “third verse” –that everyone knew was coming, but still erupted with a thunderous ovation when he did! He then segued into “The Dance” before taking one final bow.
But, of course…there was an encore, wasn’t there? Definitely. Brooks took over spotlight all alone on the stage, responding to fans’ posters requesting songs like “Mom,” “Ireland,” and a medley in which he paid tribute to Keith Whitley, Randy Travis, and George Strait. He even read the poster of one teenage fan named Kate who was about to go to her prom after the concert was over. Brooks asked her if she was going with anyone, and he offered to give her a chance to be one of his confetti shooters in the third and final show of the weekend. It was a deal that turned out too good to be true. Brooks even posed with Kate for a “prom pic” after the show. Judging by his smile when discussing the evening for his “Live From Studio G” weekly series on Facebook Live, Brooks enjoyed the night as much as she did.
The only bad thing about a Garth Brooks concert is…you can’t do them all. Songs such as “Somewhere Other Than The Night,” “Ain’t Goin’ Down (Till The Sun Comes Up),” and 1992’s ‘What She’s Doin’ Now” (which I would put up in a country time capsule with anybody) were left off. But I make no bones about it. I’m a fan. He could have done nothing but album cuts or medleys of other artists’ hits and I would still be mesmerized. It’s only a minor quibble, as Brooks still remains the Gold Standard for which a country music touring artist is measured. It doesn’t matter who’s on the radio, Garth Brooks is still the King. And, that’s as it should be.