It was just after 3:00 p.m. yesterday on a sunny June afternoon in Las Vegas. It was 103 degrees outside but I was inside, shopping on the freezer aisle at the grocery store and was, well, freezing. My cell phone rang and my husband said some magical words: “I have two tickets for Garth tonight!”
“Woo-hoo!” I exclaimed in the general direction of the frozen peas. A short time later, with the groceries put away and dinner plans revised in favor of an early dinner out, I was heading down to the Strip to see my second Garth Brooks performance in just two weeks.
Garth Brooks returned to the Encore Theater in Las Vegas last night for another private show for Steve Wynn and invited guests. This time, Garth brought his 6-person band with him. While the first show was an intimate solo gig with just Garth and his guitar, last night’s show was classic Garth, minus the cowboy hat.
Garth was again attired casually in jeans, t-shirt and a baseball cap (a Pittsburgh Pirates hat this time, prompting my husband to surmise that Garth’s support for the “team that hasn’t had a winning season since 1992” must have more to do with Garth’s self-deprecating humor than any devotion to the team itself; I say maybe it’s his charitable nature).
The balcony was open for this show and the theater was packed; I spotted only one empty seat from my vantage point. Unlike Garth’s last performance at Encore, this appearance was no secret: the crowd knew who they were coming to see and they were primed for a great show. Garth said that the goal for the night was to “get better,” to make it seem “like last time sucked.”
Garth told how he got the call from Steve Wynn last Friday with a proposal to perform at Encore on Tuesday; that’s four days notice. Garth said that he and his band got to fly in the Wynn corporate jet. (As I noted in my previous post, Garth flew on the corporate jet last time too, but he didn’t share that tidbit with the audience last time). Garth joked that the plane was so big that they didn’t have time to go to the back of the plane and return to the front before they landed, and that the front and back of the plane had different area codes (were they making phone calls from the plane or what?).
Garth asked how many in the audience had been to the performance on June 8th and he received a respectable cheer in response. A much larger cheer arose, however, when he asked who hadn’t attended the first show, indicating that this was mostly a new crowd - a fresh audience. This audience wasn’t disappointed either. Garth, the consummate performer, rocked the house, if you can say that about a country music artist. It was a great evening.
Garth Brooks and his band performed for almost 2 ½ hours. As one would expect, they sang many of their hits, including two of my favorites that weren’t included in the first show, “Longneck Bottle” and “Two of a Kind.” (I’m still waiting to hear “Two Pina Coladas,” though). Garth joked and talked about himself and the band, but there was more emphasis on his music during this show. He had funny stories about being mistaken for George Strait and being asked by a confused fan to play Clint Black's “A Better Man.” He said the band’s motto is “Whatever It Takes,” echoing the “do-what-you-got-to-do” theme reflected in many of his songs.
Garth again raised the house lights and took questions and requests from the audience. He noted that he got the idea of talking with the audience from his wife, Trisha Yearwood. He sang some songs requested by the audience. He even sang “Happy Birthday” to a woman named Andy. And, after hemming and hawing a bit, complaining that it was too hard to sing, Garth sang “Shameless” upon a request. He said he wouldn’t have been able to sing it two weeks ago, but last night he did, and he nailed it (of course!). The energy and enthusiasm in the room was what you’d expect in an arena with 25,000 fans. Afterwards, Garth ended the show with Don McLean’s “American Pie;” the audience sang along with exuberance.
There was no announcement or hint about any future shows. It’s clear though that Steve Wynn and Garth Brooks get along well and that they are talking about something. Steve Wynn called Garth Brooks “delightful” and “remarkable.” Garth said that he “loves” Steve Wynn, even though they haven’t known each other very long. According to Garth, Trisha Yearwood says that he and Steve Wynn have “man crushes” on each other. Garth said he didn’t know if this relationship was going to work out or end in divorce. He acknowledged that he’s not used to working for someone else (or I imagine, putting together a concert with four days notice). And perhaps alluding to some ambivalence on Garth’s part, Garth said he doesn’t know if Steve Wynn is trying to “make my life better” or “screw it up.”
As the evening closed, Garth said he was heading back home, to fix Trisha’s morning coffee and do her laundry. What a guy. What a performer.