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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisAs the number one selling solo artist in the history of American music, it wasn't surprising to see Garth Brooks sell out nine shows across six days, especially when 100% of the proceeds went to charity and tickets cost a remarkably reasonable $25. Chances are he could've sold out twice that amount, but after moving 140,000 tickets at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, he practically doubled a state record previously set by Michael Jackson. And speaking of Music City, this particular series of shows benefited the Community Foundation Tennessee Flood Relief, which took in $3.5 million from ticket sales alone.
Of course, the main reason everyone showed up was to see the country superstar himself, who outside of an ongoing unplugged residency at The Wynn Las Vegas' Encore Theater, is still in semi-retired mode. But despite the decade in between proper tours, Brooks didn't miss a beat on opening night, clocking in at 90 minutes of explosive entertainment that kicked up just as much dust as it could connect with sentiment.
After launching with the honky-tonk favorite "Rodeo," Brooks and his highly polished band blasted through most of the main hits from his peak chart period. And aside from the headliner admitting his guitar was now a tool to hide his stomach, it could've very well been 1998 all over again, as evidenced by a southern-fried cover of Billy Joel's "Shameless," the acoustic ballad "Unanswered Prayers" and the equal rights anthem "We Shall Be Free."
In between songs, Brooks was especially wide-eyed as he thanked fans, first and foremost for contributing to the charitable efforts, followed by supporting his career for all these years. However, banter was kept to a minimum in favor of packing in as many tunes and special guests as possible, including a trade-off of fiery guitar licks with Steve Wariner during "Long Neck Bottle" and lyrics of romantic longing with his wife Trisha Yearwood come "In Another's Eyes."
The evening ended just past midnight with a bit of revelry thanks to "Friends In Low Places," which made the massive venue seem like a hole in the wall bar, along with a rabble rousing encore of "Ain't Going Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)." In the end, it was apparent that Brooks' popularity is just as durable (if not stronger) than ever and he could easily return to the arena circuit on a split second's notice. Nonetheless, the superstar made it clear the current concert series was simply a party to assist the previously flood-ravaged area and this initial evening more than lived up to that promise.
Garth Brooks also appears at the Bridgestone Arena on December 19, 20, 21 and 22. For additional details, visit www.ticketmaster.com.
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