In July 2021, thousands of music lovers packed Nashville’s Nissan Stadium to see Garth Brooks perform, though the show was ultimately forced to be canceled as severe thunderstorms rolled through Music City.
This weekend, Brooks made up for it with two shows at Nissan Stadium, on Friday, April 15 and Saturday, April 16.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the second chance at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Brooks told the roaring crowd during his Saturday evening (April 16) set. “We can’t thank you enough for coming back…we came to have some fun and raise some hell!”
Brooks, a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1990, spotlighted the Opry with an opening set that included music from Chase Rice as well as several of Brooks’ fellow Opry members including Chris Young (inducted in 2017), Trisha Yearwood (inducted in 1999) and Lauren Alaina, whom Yearwood inducted into the Opry family this year. Grand Ole Opry announcer/host Bill Cody led the segment.
“WSM right here in Nashville is where it’s broadcast from. It’s the longest-running radio show in history of entertainment,” Brooks said. “To become a member of this, a member of the family, is the greatest gift you can ever ask for as a country artist.”
Yearwood and Alaina joined forces on Yearwood’s signature hit, “She’s in Love With The Boy.” The crowd got an early surprise from the headliner, as Brooks himself joined Chris Young for an energetic rendition of “Papa Loved Mama.”
Brooks and Yearwood then introduced two more longtime Opry members: Brooks welcomed Larry Gatlin, noting that Gatlin and his brothers Steve and Rudy are close to celebrating their 45th year as Grand Ole Opry members; meanwhile, Yearwood welcomed Jeannie Seely, and noted Seely will celebrate her 55th anniversary as an Opry member this year.
“This lady, if you look under women’s empowerment, her picture is there,” Yearwood said. “This is one of the coolest chicks I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and being a member of the Grand Ole Opry with.”
Gatlin and Seely joined the rest of the artists onstage to conclude with the longstanding country music anthem, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”
After a brief pause, the show revved up as Brooks took the stage for the in-the-round stadium show.
“Somebody’s gotta start the weekend,” Brooks sang as he opened with “All Day Long,” and this rowdy crowd seemed more than primed for the occasion.
Wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Just LeDoux It,” a tribute to the late cowboy and entertainer Chris LeDoux, and backed by bandmates including guitarists Gordon Kennedy and Bobby Terry, fiddle player Jimmy Mattingly, organist Blair Masters, vocalists Vicki Hampton and Robert Bailey, bassist Mark Greenwood, steel guitarist Steve McClure, drummer Mike Palmer and bandleader Dave Gant, Brooks and his well-oiled machine of a band blazed through a catalog of hits.
“We love our country music at a Garth show,” Brooks told the crowd. “We’re gonna play love songs, sad songs, happy songs, upbeat, slow songs, but mostly tonight you’re gonna hear a lot of cowboy songs, that’s just what we do.”
He made good on his promise, offering up a string of classics including “Rodeo,” “Beaches of Cheyenne,” “Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “Ain’t Going Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up), and even a cover of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Fishin’ in the Dark.”
One of the most passionate moments came with the 1992 hit “The River,” which Brooks co-wrote with Victoria Shaw. Cell phones immediately lit up across the stadium as Brooks led the audience in the song that has become an anthem for dreamers everywhere.
“All they wanted was to have fun,” Brooks said of the thousands of fans who were forced to walk home in the torrential rain after the July show was postponed. “Seventy-one thousand refunds were given,” he told the crowd. “They said you cannot get those kinds of numbers back. But 73,000 people came back!”
He later added, “We got us a night for a concert tonight, but make no mistake, the thunder will roll,” as the opening strains of “The Thunder Rolls” began to play.
Before launching into the now-iconic first notes of his 1990 hit “Friends in Low Places,” Brooks welcomed guitarist Chris Leuzinger, one of the original “G-Men” studio musicians who has played on all of Brooks’ albums and singles, to the stage to play on the song.
“The guys that play on our records are sweet enough and talented enough to go right from our session and play on a Kenny Chesney record or a Luke Bryan record. That’s what these guys do. They write all this stuff, they have to write these intros—it was Bobby Wood that wrote the intro to ‘The Dance.’ It was guys like Rob Hajocos who did the fiddle part on ‘Much Too Young,’ and Bruce Bouton did the steel pieces. Well, one of them took me up on it. This cat is one of the G-Men, who has played on every Garth record, starting in 1988. This cat is amazing.”
At this point, Brooks’ career accolades are well-known, as the first seven-time recipient of the CMA Awards’ entertainer of the year trophy, and the first and only artist to earn nine Diamond Awards. Last year, he was one of five artists to receive The Kennedy Center Honor, and in 2020, he earned the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
As has become tradition at a Brooks show, the encore involved the superstar taking song requests from fans, and it is this tradition that highlights one of the core pillars of his legendary success, aside from his skills as one of music’s most electrifying entertainers and an ace vocalist and songwriter—his unwavering connection with fans.
Saturday night, he read signs and performed a range of songs from his own “What She’s Doin’ Now” and “Your Song,” to bits of Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” and “Miami, My Amy,” and George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning.” In one tender moment, Brooks also spotted a young boy holding a sign stating that Saturday’s show was his first concert, and promptly sang a duet with the boy on “Standing Outside the Fire.”
“The best night I’ve ever had in Nashville is right here,” Brooks told the crowd. “You guys are fantastic.”