It's real hard to believe that Garth Brooks has not played Nashville since 1998, but starting last Thursday, he seemed to be doing so in style.
Brooks is performing nine shows at the arena in downtown Nashville to raise money for the victims of the disastrous May floods. This is not the first time Brooks has put his musical talents to work for those affected by natural disasters. He previously did so for wild fire victims in California by playing a bunch of gigs in Los Angeles.
From what I've read about the shows, it sounds like Brooks has not lost his skills in playing the big venues. Most of the time he is found in Las Vegas playing a solo gig, but in Nashville he is playing with a band.
Ed Morris was filled with praise of Brooks in his review at CMT.com. He wrote, "Garth Brooks lived up to his fans' most ardent expectations from the moment he took the stage... He didn't swing from a rope or smash his guitar, but, otherwise, Garth 2010 was pretty much like Garth 1990 - bursting with energy, effusive in his praise of the audience and in complete control of the situation."
Of course, Brooks was never one lacking in hyperbole. On opening night, he told the crowd, "Send the word out right now: If the other eight shows are like this, I'm never going to make it, man." I guess the other eight shows weren't like this because he does seem to be making it.
Dave Paulson of The Tennessean said of Brooks' opening night show, "Still, even with another two-hour set to go later that evening, the country superstar didn't spare an ounce of energy or giddy excitement over performing at his first Nashville arena concert since 1998.
The Paulson review went onto say, " When Brooks and his band played - charging through the opening combo "Rodeo" and "Papa Loved Mama" - it certainly didn't seem like they'd been away from an arena stage very long. But between tunes, as a beaming Brooks would catch his breath, he'd remind fans just how long it'd been. "I've missed this so much," he said.
What was refreshing was that the crowd contained a lot of young folks. The Tennessean said, "Half of the fans who enthusiastically sang along Thursday were likely barely out of their teens when Brooks last toured. The span of ages wasn't lost on the singer, who introduced his 1990 song "Two of a Kind, Workin' On a Full House" as "coming back from before a lot of you were born."
A review of the show at Billboard.com by Deborah Evans Price also was positive: "Rarely have an entertainer and an audience shown such genuine appreciation for each other. As he finished the poignant ballad "The Dance," he told the fans "I was expecting what I remembered, but it was never THIS good."
Price's review concluded, "his first night in Music City proved the fans are still their waiting to sing every word to every hit, and he's lost none of the magic that made him a superstar."
It's not as if Brooks has been sitting idly by for years, although doing a full arena show with a band is different than playing Las Vegas and going solo.
Brooks has shows remaining Tuesday and Wednesday, and then it's back to Vegas. Chances are it will not be too many years before we see him again. He said he'd start touring again when his youngest daughter, a high school freshman, is done with high school. Let's hope he keeps his promise and spreads the love nation-wide.