Garth Brooks Proves He Belongs Inside the Ryman Auditorium
Garth Brooks' very first show at the Ryman Auditorium was everything the singer hoped for. His fans got exactly what they expected.
The singer's stirring two-hour set at the Mother Church of Country Music relied on classics early before turning to Brooks' own classic catalog. Brooks is a man who seems like he's taking in the audience's praise for the first time, every time. But there's no doubting his heightened awareness of how special the evening was. Time and time again he figuratively bowed down to the hallowed venue. He'd never played a full show there, and in fact, he admitted before the show he was afraid to even step foot inside the Ryman building until his wife Trisha Yearwood forced him to go for a funeral.
Talk before the show centered on which song Brooks would sing first. It'd not only begin his first show at a venue everyone involved in country music cherishes for its acoustics and history, but the chosen song would kick off the Garth Channel on SiriusXM. Channel 55 started broadcasting on Thursday night (Sept. 8) with a livestream of Brooks' 90-minute set.
He began with a medley. Cal Smith's "Country Bumpkin" became George Jones' "He Stopped Loving Her Today." George Strait, Randy Travis and Merle Haggard followed. Brooks even offered a verse of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."
Officially, Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes" started the show. Twenty-five hundred people in attendance went silent for this tribute to a man Brooks idolized. And then the real show began.
The curtains flew open to reveal Brooks' band at the ready. "Friends in Low Places" came early, then "Rodeo," "Two of Kind, Working on a Full House" and "The River." The Country Music Hall of Famer admitted he was starting to feel like he belonged — something the crowd knew years or decades ago, even if he was unsure.
"On a night where I needed you to be at your best," Brooks said, gesturing to the audience, "you have been unbelievable."
For a Garth first-timer, his passion is overwhelming. The shouts, fist pumps and raw emotion that comes with every song is unmatched. He's the only person in country music who seems as if he's playing as much for his own entertainment as the audience's.
Yearwood joined Brooks for three songs, including their own duet "In Another's Eyes" and a new duet called "Whiskey to Wine." Before the show Brooks said the song would be on his new album, expected this fall. They performed a ballad written in the spirit of Jones and Tammy Wynette — a tortured love that can't be trusted even if it feels so good.
Like a preacher in front of his congregation, Brooks told the audience to be seated from time to time, but it never lasted more than a chorus or two. Standing ovations seemed to follow every song, and by the time he closed with "Papa Loved Mama," "Callin' Baton Rouge" and "The Dance," it was futile.
Listeners of the Garth Channel thought the show ended there, but Brooks reemerged for an encore that he said he arranged to be just for those in attendance at the Mother Church. He took requests, and played deep cuts like "In Lonesome Dove" for a daughter he said was in attendance and could sing the song better than him.
"You can bust your butt all over the world," he said, getting emotional, "but if you can only impress your children ..."
"Shameless" and "Standing Outside the Fire" finished the set just after 10PM. The Garth Channel is now live, promising Brooks' own music, but also songs from artists he appreciates. During a press conference before the show, he said if he likes it, you'll find it on Channel 55. And unlike Brooks' Las Vegas show, influences from the 1990s on will be included.
There's no official release date for Brooks' next album. In addition to touring this fall he'll be a part of the 2016 CMA Awards, as he's nominated for Entertainer of the Year once again. He may have picked up a few votes on Thursday night.
Watch: Garth Talks About His New Song