At Garth in Vegas, the Plus One is the music

TMU was on hand as the legend opened his two-year Caesars Palace residency

It seemed as though he somehow believed he didn’t belong there.

A bare stage and in just a ball cap and black athletic hoodie, Garth Brooks opened his Garth Brooks/Plus One residency inside The Colosseum at Caesars Palace against a black backdrop with just a guitar. In doing so, he returned to his trademark Las Vegas innovation: in a town known for over-the-top opulence, strip it down to the nuts and bolts.

The stage, too, was as bare as could be allowed for some 22,000 square feet of performance space in the home that Celine Dion and Cirque built. When the black curtain rose, it revealed Garth’s full touring band on standard black risers. The risers were flanked by two neon “Circle G” signs–the circle replaced with Caesar’s signature Laurel Leaf Crown–and backed by a video screen projecting a larger-than-life Brooks.

And that’s it. No. Really. That’s it. No fireworks. No large furniture, and no fuss. Just music. That’s the way Brooks has liked his shows in Vegas to be ever since he started playing Sin City in 2009 with a one man show at Wynn. That show focused on Brooks’ earliest musical influences and how he parlayed that inspiration into a Hall of Fame career as the biggest-selling solo artist in U.S. history.

But at Caesars, with The Colosseum’s expansive proscenium, the impermanent band risers and easily retractable signage felt as though Brooks was trying to take up as little space as possible. It was as if he were communicating, “I am just borrowing this,” rather than making it his home for the next two years. Leave it to the humble superstar to feel like he doesn’t belong in one of the greatest rooms in all of live music.

The G-man still considers Plus One a one man show. Just a show with “muscle,” his word to describe his band of stellar musicians joining him as a collective Plus One themselves. But they aren’t there to keep the show going at the same break-neck pace of the recently-wrapped Stadium Tour. Instead, they exist to supplement Brooks’ stories as he revels in the intimacy of The Colosseum.

And revel Brooks does. Beholden to no setlist, he instead lets the crowd decide the show. One night, “Papa Loved Mama” was the request of a returning veteran, recently back from the Middle East. Another night, a request for “Standing Outside the Fire” made Garth break down crying. Why? The woman who requested it–Kris–said the song discouraged her from ending her life, and she now works in suicide prevention. Kris earned a standing ovation for her vulnerability.

An exhausted Brooks might come off a romping “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” and collapse into a seat at one of the many tables on stage clutching his guitar like a life raft while digging out a deep cut like “Wolves.” Or maybe he talks about the time Bob Dylan owned Brooks for making fun of him as part of the aforementioned first Vegas residency. You never truly know what you will get on any given night, including if any special guests will appear like Trisha Yearwood did for the first two nights.

And that is the fun of a Garth Brooks show. It is what kept people coming back to over 300+ shows on his comeback tour from 2014-2017. And it’s what kept people returning with their enormous signs at his stadium outing. This new residency combines the best of the organic moments he shares with the audience and the full-throated hits fans want to hear. Rather than sectioning off the main set and request set as on previous tours, each night is a mixed bag from which anything could be pulled out at any moment.

Like Caesar, Garth Brooks is a man of his people. The 4,000 people each night are yet another of his Plus One. Garth knows what they want. But more importantly, he knows how to give it to them in a way as though it were just for them alone. Garth Brooks is the greatest entertainer alive simply because he is the most honest entertainer alive. And for that, he more than deserves his Romanic golden leaf crown.

Ahead of the residency, we chatted with Brooks who talks about how the show evolved into the band performing most of the show. You can see the full interview below which will be included on an upcoming episode of The Music Universe Podcast. Also, Brooks announces 18 dates for 2024.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.