Less than five hours before Garth Brooks kicks off his new Las Vegas residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on Thursday night (May 18), he swears he doesn’t know what his first song will be.
But the superstar loves flying without a net. “It’s exciting, right?” he says, talking to Billboard in the afternoon before Garth Brooks/Plus ONE opens. “But still, you’re not in this business as long as I‘ve been without having some kind of sense about you. So the net is the people that come see us. They’ve got me. They want to see me fly without a net because they’ve got me if I fall, but I think they like it as much as I do.”
And, he adds, making it up as he goes along is a chance to learn something new about himself as a performer more than 30 years in. “I don’t want to go to a gig, check the boxes and say good night. I want to come off the stage knowing something about me that I didn’t know when I came out there,” he says.
The run comes nine years after his five-year residency at Wynn’s Encore Theater concluded in 2014. Like that show, Garth Brooks/Plus ONE is largely a one-man show, but the Plus ONE gives him latitude to bring different guests up every night. His band will be seated in the audience, so when the mood strikes, he can bring them up to do a full-throated, muscular version of a song like “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” rather than a stripped-down acoustic set. Or his wife Trisha Yearwood could join, as could other entertainers. But as he also explained, the music is the ultimate Plus ONE that has been with him his whole life.
As much as he plans to hit the stage without a plan, Brooks does know that there are songs that people are coming to hear, and “99% of those are going to be Garth Brooks songs,” he says. So, unlike the Wynn show, which relied heavily on songs by artists like James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Bob Seger, who influenced him, it sounds like this show will still include vital covers since Brooks is a veritable human jukebox, but that more of the songs will come from his own voluminous catalog.
Attendees must lock up their phones and no videoing or taping is allowed during the show. Brooks says that gives him the freedom to perform previously unreleased material or songs that he is still in the process of writing. In fact, he vowed to play something brand-new the first evening. “It’s a laboratory,” he says.
He landed at Caesars after having serious discussions with a number of Las Vegas venues and a long courtship. “[Caesars executives] traveled to Nashville. We talked over dinners. We didn’t talk about business, we talked about children, talked about stuff like that. They made it sound very much that they were very interested in phone calls, texts,” he says. “They were going through some other stuff with some of their other entertainers, and when you would talk about that, their immediate response was, ‘We’re focused on you. This is a goal for us.’ It made you feel very wanted. And to be honest with you, it wasn’t an inexpensive deal for them. So they have gone above and beyond, which is very sweet, but it’s like Steve Wynn said: ‘Now all the pressure is on you.’ Now it’s up to you to get out there and hopefully make them feel it was worth it.”
Brooks has always been sensitive to ticket pricing, with his tickets to his non-Vegas shows rarely exceeding $100. But the tickets for this run go as high as $2,500 face value for the front row and are $10,000 for a pair on the secondary market. With no seat more than 145 feet from stage, the lowest ticket price in the 4,100-seat venue is $99 and tickets average out around $350. Brooks says he will continue his long tradition of “stubbing,” where crew members move fans from the farthest seats to a closer location for free.
“What I love about these guys, too, was we said, ‘Hey, look, it shouldn’t just be for the rich to enjoy. Let us still do our stub thing that we do.’ And they have allowed us to do that,” he says. “You understand that for them to make their money back, things have to happen in certain ways. But at the same time, we get to keep our same traditions as well. And my promise to everybody else, too, is if this is too expensive, I get it. We’ll do a dive bar somewhere for free. Or we’ll go play somewhere and hopefully get the ticket prices more around your thing.”
With the 2023 run of 27 shows already sold out, Brooks announced 18 new Colosseum dates for 2024 earlier Thursday. Fans who signed up through Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan program for 2023 and were locked out will get first dibs on 2024 tickets. The new Verified Fan on sale date is May 31.