The Garth Brooks Stadium Tour returns after 18 months
The country music superstar played the inaugural live music concert at Allegiant Stadium. He. Is. Back.
The Entertainer of a Lifetime returned to the stage after 18 months in a fitting place: The live entertainment capital of the world.
Las Vegas has marked new beginnings for Garth Brooks since the turn of the century. In 2009, Brooks began a five-year-long residency at the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas — a then-new venue on the Strip. And now, 12 years later, Brooks kicked off the remainder of his Stadium Tour at another new venue — Allegiant Stadium.
The sold out July 10th performance saw Brooks christen Las Vegas’ very first football stadium with Allegiant’s very first live music concert. Brooks emerged from the stage singing “All Day Long,” the lead single off of his most recent album, Fun. (For those in the know, there’s a new “hole” from which the Ten Galloned-One emerges, but we’re not saying where.)
The evening provided a release of pent up energy — both from the crowd and from Garth. His eyes shot gratitude to the rafters as he paused between each number to check in on his own disbelief. He seemed to be asking 68,000 people “Is this real? Are we really back?”
Notably absent as Brooks played hits including “The Beaches of Cheyenne,” “Ain’t Goin’ Down (Til the Sun Comes Up),” and “Unanswered Prayers” were the words “Pandemic, “COVID,” and “virus.” He merely referred to the past 18 months as “time off,” as though he had simply taken a break from touring. But everyone knew what he meant and were grateful he left it unspoken.
The highlight of the main set was an acoustic version of a song off of 2016’s Gunslinger album: “Ask Me How I Know.” The Mitch Rossell-penned hit has been a signature live piece for Brooks, but the song is made so much more raw when stripped down to just its strings. Also rare: getting “Ask Me How I Know” and “Shameless” in the same show. But Vegas got it. Jackpot.
During his encore, Brooks brought out his wife for their latest duet, “Shallow.” The song became a popular fan favorite during the pan — excuse me, time off — after the pair featured it in their at-home acoustic CBS specials. “Shallow” ended up on Fun just before its release last year. Yearwood also sang “Walkaway Joe” by request before joining the background vocalists Vicki Hampton and Robert Bailey for the final number of the show; “Standing Outside the Fire.”
Ever the married couple, the pair had a disagreement over the tuning of a guitar. As usual, Ms. Yearwood won that very public argument, but not before saying Garth was right.
The band on the Stadium Tour has come together as a collage of Garth’s career. Stalwarts David Gant (bandleader, keyboards), the aforementioned Hampton and Bailey, Mike Palmer (drums), and Jimmy Mattingly (fiddle) are all still there.
Brooks has welcomed back Blair Masters (organ) Steve McClure (steel guitar), Mark Greenwood (bass) and even his college roommate Ty England (guitar). How far back do Ty and Garth go? England and Brooks got into a bit of trouble on Brooks’ breakout 1992 TV special This is Garth Brooks when they smashed their guitars together at the end of seminal party anthem “Friends in Low Places.” But hey, what are college roommates for if not to stir things up, right?
Garth’s recording career is also represented on this tour. Chris Leuzinger (guitar) is one of the G-Men, the studio musicians who have recorded on every Garth Brooks album, but who tend to favor session work over the road. Leuzinger is responsible for the iconic beginning to “Friends in Low Places,” among other memorable guitar solos. Gordon Kennedy (guitar) is also on the tour. The Grammy-winning songwriter wrote “You Move Me” off of Brooks’ Sevens. Garth subsequently turned to Kennedy for his rock project ...In The Life of Chris Gaines.
This show has been somewhat of a litmus test for us at The Music Universe. We have used this show as the control for when concerts could come back. We have analyzed, theorized, and prophesied for 484 days. Our main theory was that when Garth hit the stage with 68,000 screaming fans ready to party, live entertainment would officially be back. And Brooks agreed with us, saying from the stage, “I can tell this to you, and to every musician out there: get back in the game because it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
This review was co-written with Buddy Iahn.