The emotional apex of Garth Brooks’ marathon concert at the Sprint Center on Friday occurred shortly after the star handed his guitar to fans at the front of the stage. Members of the audience of about 17,000 were gladdened by live video footage of a young man gratefully clutching the instrument.
Brooks pointed out the kindness of a woman who initially thought that she was the intended recipient before she graciously passed the gift on. He said that “I will remember forever what I saw… you are the kind of people I want to play for.”
The heartwarming incident typified Brooks’ two-hour-and-40-minute outing, the sixth of his seven sold-out concerts at the arena. Brooks is one of the most commercially successful musicians in American music, but the extraordinary passion and effusive energy of his fans exceeded the childlike exuberance of the Tulsa native and his hefty backing band.
The adoration they showered on Brooks and the headlong joy they took in singing along to the 32 songs on the set list overshadowed a cameo appearance from the Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and the gaudy pyrotechnics of the elaborate production. Brooks repeatedly acknowledged the dynamic. During a frenetic reading of “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up),” he grabbed a handheld camera that projected the antics of his admirers on the massive video screens.
He’s a humble ham. Brooks shamelessly milked applause on Friday, but he also admitted that he sometimes uses his guitar as a prop to “hide my gut.” Unlike otherworldly superstars of his generation such as Michael Jackson, Brooks is defined by his normalcy. Versions of drinking anthems like “Two Piña Coladas” and cheating songs including “Papa Loved Mama” were enhanced by Brooks’ everyman persona.
His knack for grafting melodic country with classic rock is another essential component of his populist aesthetic. Robust readings of “Shameless” and “The Thunder Rolls” demonstrated his signature sound. Other highlights included a tender duet with his wife Trisha Yearwood on “Walkaway Joe,” an impressive solo/acoustic cover of “American Pie” during the second encore and a touching exchange with a child who recently finished radiation treatment.
The generous woman who freely relinquished Brooks’ guitar was later rewarded with a second instrument. Yet every member of the audience left with an equally significant gift in the form of a powerful reminder of the almost magical potency of popular music.
Baby Let’s Lay Down and Dance; Rodeo; Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House; The River; Two Piña Coladas; Papa Loved Mama; Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up); Unanswered Prayers; If Tomorrow Never Comes; Mom; 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; PrizeFighter; Walkaway Joe; She’s In Love With the Boy; Shameless; Callin’ Baton Rouge; Friends In Low Places; The Dance; She’s Every Woman; The Change; You Move Me; Thicker Than Blood; Wrapped Up in You; More Than a Memory; Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old); Standing Outside the Fire; American Pie