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Garth Brooks’ fifth Sprint Center show was an ‘electrifying’ gift for KCK veteran

Garth Brooks performed the first of five weekend shows at the Sprint Center Friday.
Garth Brooks performed the first of five weekend shows at the Sprint Center Friday. jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

At the onset of his encore, his fifth of the weekend, Garth Brooks acknowledged a fan up front holding a sign. Brooks thought he’d recognized the man from another show, which wasn’t the case, but the guy said this show at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Sunday night was one of 18 he had attended.

It was also one of five Brooks sold out this past weekend: one on Friday and two each on Saturday and Sunday. Each show drew about 17,000 fans, a total of about 85,000 tickets sold.

It’s a sure bet that at least 25 percent of those Sprint Center tickets were sold to fans who were seeing him for the umpteenth time, fans like the guy with that sign.

Or fans like Jeffrey “Bubba” Strauss, a U.S. Postal Service manager in Cleveland and former University of Iowa wrestler, who attended Sunday’s evening show.

Before the show, Strauss had seen Brooks 16 times in the 1990s, going back to the days when Brooks was an opener for stars like Loretta Lynn and the Judds. In 2014, when Brooks returned from retirement and launched his current world tour, Strauss started traveling all over the country to see Brooks.

In January of this year, at a show in Cincinnati, Strauss launched a project of his own that combined his love for Brooks with his wish to assist U.S. military veterans: the My Veterans for Garth Experience.

“I wanted to do something for some of the veterans and show them a way to appreciate them,” he said.

His show of appreciation comprises a pre-show dinner and a ticket to a Brooks show for a U.S. military veteran, all of which Strauss pays for and which is what he bestowed on Craig Palm on Sunday night, the fourth time Strauss has donated his own time, dinner and ticket to a U.S. veteran.

Palm is a military veteran (Iraq, Germany, Qatar, Turkey) from Colorado who started in Fort Riley and is now living in Kansas City, Kan. He was recommended to Strauss for the Garth show by Kevin Jamison at the Veteran’s Community Project in Kansas City.

Palm is a longtime Brooks fan, going back to the mid-1990s. Sunday, he attended his first Garth show.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “Bubba keeps telling me it will be a great experience.”

And Strauss was correct. Like those that preceded it, Sunday’s show was another in a long line of high-voltage Garth shows, including the four that preceded it in Kansas City, with one exception.

After four shows in less than two days, Brooks’ voice was showing some fatigue and wear. He mentioned it a few times, though the affliction sounded relatively minor and one that needed no remedy other than rest. He gave it none of that Sunday night.

After the video introduction that heralded Brook’s gargantuan statistics — ticket sales, album sales, attendance figures he popped on stage and barged into “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance,” his preferred opener on this leg of the tour.

It suits its purpose: A large percentage of the crowd recognized it and baptized it with a stirring sing-along. He followed it with “Rodeo,” another crowd favorite; “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House,” a rip-snorting anthem that recalls Bob Seger’s “Get Out of Denver”; then “The River,” a hymn about unfettered devotion to a cause; “Two Pina Coladas,” a throwaway ditty about getting buzzed on the beach; and “Papa Loved Mama,” a tale that turns tragic after Mama reveals that her love (or lust) isn’t exclusive.

Brooks noted the number of days between Sunday night’s show and the next show — a Friday night date at the Sprint Center — implying heartily that he was ready to play for a while, to the brink of midnight, at least, if not into early Monday morning.

He would deliver yet another high-octane show and though his energy never waned obviously, he appeared to be fatigued, beyond his slightly faltering voice.

As he has during every show, Brooks turned the middle of the show over to his wife, Trisha Yearwood, who led the crowd through an entertaining set of her hits, including “XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl)” and “She’s in Love With the Boys,” which included yet another episode of the always entertaining “Kiss Cam.” Her duet on “Georgia Rain” with its co-writer Karyn Rochelle, one of Brook’s three backup singers, was, again, a highlight of the evening.

After his respite offstage, Brooks returned and navigated the show into its most primal and anticipated moments: a hair-on-fire rendition of “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” followed by (after band intros) “Friends in Low Places,” which included a small strike force of five guys dressed in black commandeering the stage and firing confetti and streamers into the crowd.

He followed that with “The Dance,” a gooey ballad that would have made a perfect conclusion to the evening.

But Garth wasn’t done. The encore, as it has been in previous shows, turned into primarily a solo-acoustic set from the headliner informed by signs fans flashed at Brooks.

Thanks to the guy with the sign who was seeing his 18th show, Brooks opened with something obscure, “Wolves,” a track from his blockbuster 1990 album, “No Fences.” His crowd recognized it immediately, as it did what followed: “Every Now and Then,” “In Lonesome Dove” and “The Red Strokes.”

Brooks brought the evening and the long weekend to a close with two blockbusters: “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” which includes his blessing for the late country music and rodeo star Chris LeDoux, and “Standing Outside the Fire,” a reminder that life’s deepest rewards are the products of risk and thinking outside the safety zone.

It brought to a close a show that impressed an array of Brook’s fans, both the veterans and the newcomers. Strauss, who now has seen Brooks 23 times on this tour, said of Sunday’s Sprint Center show: “I would put it in the top three I have seen; it was electric.”

Palm, who was seeing his first Brooks show, was even more effusive: “That was more than I could have expected. Garth Brooks was electrifying, and the crowd sang along with almost every song. That was by far the best concert I have ever seen.”

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

SUNDAY EVENING SET LIST

Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance; Rodeo; Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House; The River; Two Pina Coladas; Papa Loved Mama; Ain’t Goin’ Down (Til the Sun Comes Up); Unanswered Prayers; If Tomorrow Never Comes; That Summer; Ask Me How I Know; The Thunder Rolls; In Another’s Eyes; XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl); How Do I Live; Wrong Side of Memphis; Georgia Rain; She’s in Love With the Boy; Shameless; Callin’ Baton Rouge; Friends in Low Places; The Dance. Encore: Wolves; Every Now and Then; In Lonesome Dove; The Red Strokes; Wrapped Up In You; To Make You Feel My Love; She’s Every Woman; Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Bad); Standing Outside the Fire

If you go

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will play their sixth and seventh shows at 7 p.m. May 12 and 7:30 p.m. May 13. $74.98. sprintcenter.com.

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