If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then more performers should wait 17 years between appearances in Houston. Or maybe that only works when a performer is as iconic as Garth Brooks — the high-energy country crooner whose at the top of just about every album sales record.
Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood began a four-night, eight-show run at the Toyota Center Friday night in front of a capacity crowd. As Brooks noted early in the set, "When I come to a concert, I want to hear the old stuff," and play the old stuff he did. The only new songs consisted of set opener "Man Against Machine" and "All American Kid" from his recent performance at the ACM Awards.
Other than that, the crowd knew every word to every number from second song "Rodeo" to Brooks' biggest hits like "The Thunder Rolls" and "Friends in Low Places." Brooks encouraged his fans to an ever more fevered response — running from one end of the stage to the other, leaning into people in the front row, and pointing at different sections of the crowd to scream in between songs. The audience responded with decibel levels that wouldn't have seemed out of place at a One Direction concert, leaving Brooks smiling.
If it was all a little "Shameless," well, it was also really entertaining: exactly the sort of energy level and response that made the long wait worthwhile.
Yearwood appeared about midway through, joining Brooks on a duet of "In Another's Eyes" before performing five songs on her own including classics like "How Do I Live" and "She's In Love With a Boy." Yes, the crowd knew all the words to her songs, too.
Friday night's show was a multi-generational affair with lots of people Brooks' age (early 50s) and up along with their adult children and a few actual children. For many in attendance, the show looked like an excuse to bust out the Rodeo-wear in the summer with lots of people mimicing Brooks' trademark black cowboy hat.
After a two hour-plus, 26-song set, the only question was how Brooks and his band would find the energy to do it all again for the folks lined up for the 10:30 p.m. second show.
Man Vs. Machine
Two of a Kind, Workin’ On a Full House
The Beaches of Cheyenne
Two Pina Coladas
Papa Loved Mama
Ain’t Goin’ Down
The Thunder Rolls
All American Kid
In Another’s Eyes (with Trisha Yearwood)
Trisha Yearwood solo:
How Do I Live
She’s In Love With the Boy
Callin’ Baton Rouge
Friends In Low Places
In Lonesome Dove
Much Too Young
Standing Outside the Fire
Bonus reading: Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood tell CultureMap some surprising things in an in-depth interview.