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Inside the Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood show in Salt Lake City, Utah

Six hours before playing his first of two shows at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Garth Brooks told a group of reporters it would be the same show he had performed at the venue just 11 months prior. Same guys, same songs, same fun.

What a gross understatement.

Yes, technically Brooks wasn’t wrong. He had the same backing band with him on Saturday night — talented musicians who’ve been by his side since the late ’80s and early ’90s. He did all his same hits, energizing the crowd with “Two Pina Coladas and “Friends in Low Places,” and slowing things down with “The River” and “The Dance.”

He was also unquestionably having as much fun. Even after three decades of touring, Brooks smiles and sprints onstage like it’s his first time performing for a crowd of fans. He takes no moment for granted.

Same guys, same songs, same fun.

But therein lies the magic of Brooks: it was a completely different show.

And the main reason for that is simple: Brooks caters to his fans.

When a man in the crowd held up a sign that said, “I worked 70 hours this week to come hear ‘The Cowboy Song’,” Brooks couldn’t ignore it. If it wasn’t on his setlist when the show started, it was now.

When the stadium went wild after “Two Pina Coladas,” the country superstar had a wild look in his eyes as his energy kicked up a notch.

“Like throwing gasoline on a fire!” he cried with his arms wide open.

Every cheer, every shout, every round of applause seemed to flow through his veins. When he noticed a fan holding a sign asking for “In Lonesome Dove” for a moment, Brooks gave his band a brief break and played a snippet of the song. It’s typical for him to answer fan requests, but it’s something he usually saves for the end of his show, in a segment he calls “housekeeping.” It was still quite early.

“I feel like there are no rules tonight!” he exclaimed.

Stadium tours are usually well-oiled machines to the point that artists don’t change things up too often. But Brooks likes to deviate, and no show is the same.

Ahead of his shows in Salt Lake, the 60-year-old singer said that instead of becoming an “old hat,” those moments playing for a crowd have become “more and more precious” as he gets older.

And it’s easy to see that he means it.

He delivered blow after blow. He played in all parts of the stadium, waving, blowing kisses and making hearts with his hands the whole time. Sometimes he would step back and let his audience sing along. When he got to “Unanswered Prayers,” he lifted his guitar skyward and let the voices of his fans wash over him.

Although it was a noticeably cooler night than the one he played 11 months before, Brooks went frantic enough to sweat through his black ‘Just LeDoux It’ shirt – in honor of his friend and fellow singer country Chris LeDoux, who had his own. strong following in Utah.

And it hadn’t even happened to Trisha Yearwood yet.

Brooks talks about his wife, whom he affectionately calls “The Queen,” with the same passion he brings to the stage. The moment Yearwood took the stage, delivering her powerful vocals to the hit song “Shallow” from the 2018 film “A Star is Born,” you could sense Brooks’ awe. And he wasn’t the only one.

By then, the concert — which had already featured more than 20 songs — seemed to somehow reach an even higher level of energy. Yearwood wasn’t with Brooks for her performance in Utah last year, and the crowd erupted at the sight of the country star, dazzled in sparkly pink boots and a matching pink jacket.

“Everyone treats her like the queen and it’s like, ‘Who’s the guy with her?'” Brooks previously told reporters with a beaming smile. “I always feel good until she shows up in the room and then I’m a plus one guy. But I can tell you that there is no other human being on the planet that I would rather be next to.

This chemistry was palpable as the couple sang together and held hands on stage. When Yearwood went on to sing two of her biggest hits, “She’s in Love With the Boy” and “Walkaway Joe,” Brooks gently accompanied her on guitar and shook her head in amazement as she listened to her voice. woman.

Yearwood seemed equally in awe of her audience.

“It is the place !” she proclaimed, possibly referring to Brigham Young famous statement when pioneers first reached the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Brooks, who expressed his love for Utah, later echoed that statement.

That would have been an extremely high mark to finish. Everyone present would have felt like they got their money’s worth.

But Brooks still was not done.

Once Yearwood left the stage, Brooks turned a stadium filled with over 50,000 people into something of a karaoke night. Without a band, he managed to make a stadium feel like a living room singing everything from Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” to George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning” to Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

In total, he played for 2 and a half hours straight. It was his third show at Rice-Eccles Stadium in less than a year, and he strove to make each one distinct.

It was a real sign of going above and beyond for his fans, because let’s be honest: All three shows could have been exactly the same, and no one would have complained.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion