Garth Brooks brings the heat with sizzling performance in Salt Lake City; first night of back-to-back gigs proves emotional for band, fans

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict/Nancy Van Valkenburg

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, June 18, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — In a Friday preconcert press conference Garth Brooks proudly confirmed that when he and his band played in Baton Rouge in May, over a hundred thousand fans danced and sang so loudly that a seismograph on campus actually registered a small earthquake.

Brooks’ fans lovingly call the seismic event a Garthquake, and make no mistake, a Garthquake definitely shook Salt Lake City Friday night, as the superstar, and his devoted band, delivered the goods in the first of two sold-out shows.

While there’s no word yet on any official seismic activity being detected at the University of Utah Seismology Lab Friday night, I will testify that just when I thought a 101 degree Friday in June in Utah couldn’t get any hotter, Brooks and his band shook things up as they brought some major sizzle to Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Brooks also told reporters that his goal in his shows is to whip fans into a fevered pitch and keep them there. If that was his goal then mission accomplished. This morning I felt like I’d been hit by a party bus after all the singing, dancing and cheering.

In total, Brooks sold over 160,000 tickets for three record-breaking shows at the stadium; one last summer and two this weekend. Brooks first played Rice-Eccles on July 17, 2021; it was the fastest stadium sellout in Ticketmaster history. He announced partway through that performance that he would like to do another date at Rice-Eccles in 2022. As it turned out, he added two. This weekend’s shows sold more than 50,000 tickets each in 45 minutes.

Jumbotron Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

Salt Lake City is the only return date in any North American city; Brooks told reporters that he loves his Utah fans, but that he also came back for himself, ‘cos he had such a great time here.

For those attending Saturday night’s show, get your dancing boots on because this might just be one of the best nights of your life. Be warned, it might take a little while to get into the stadium. But it wasn’t stressful; concertgoers were already having fun and were relaxed and patient, and the staff at the event were very helpful. It was also fun to people watch and take in the huge range of fans that Brooks has, all co-existing peacefully and with love.

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

Brooks’ opening act, Mitch Rossell, took the stage around 8 p.m. and played a solid set that had him tearing up at the end because of the crowd’s warm response. Then just a few minutes after 8:30 p.m., Brooks’ musicians came flooding onto the stage (and I do mean flooding, there are 14 of them, including Brooks and a special guest we will get to later.) The country superstar himself appeared from under the two drum kits on the stage as they rose up into the air; the band then launched into “All Day Long,” the first single from his 14th studio album “Fun.” (Fun fact: Brooks’ opener Rossell is the co-writer on “All Day Long” and “Dive Bar,” a duet with Blake Shelton.)

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

And Brooks certainly kept his promise to get the audience on a high, then not let them come down.

I told my husband when we were walking home after the gig that I have never seen a performer open his heart so completely on stage. He makes such a genuine connection with his audience; dashing around the in-the-round stage, blowing kisses, responding to signs that fans were holding up, somehow making every audience member feel seen.

Hand-in-hand with his showmanship, is a performer at the very top of his game. During his July 2021 concert in SLC, his voice was en pointe and his band was as tight as a drum. At that concert, though, they had also recently resumed the tour after a break due to COVID. This time around, they have been out on the road, date after date; Brooks’ voice was as limber as taffy, and his band positively jaw dropping.

There’s a moment in Brooks’ Netflix documentary “The Road I’m On” where he talks about essentially wanting to create a wall of sound at his stadium shows, and that is exactly what he does. These are men and women who are beyond professional; we are watching legends spin their magic. With this many performers, it also means that wherever you are in the stadium, there is plenty to look at.

And the hits, oh, the hits. “Salt Lake knows its country music,” Brooks told the crowd. The band performed a handful of new songs and covers but the night was mainly populated with classics. He cleverly sandwiched songs together so just when you thought you might need to sit down and rest your feet for a bit, another smash hit came along. The first sandwich of showstoppers comes with “The Beaches of Cheyenne” followed by “Two Pina Coladas” and “The River.”

He then topped that combination with “The Thunder Rolls,” “Unanswered Prayers,” “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and “That Summer ” back to back. “It’s in the entertainer’s handbook to never do two ballads in a row,” Brooks told the crowd, promptly and boldy breaking that rule. And the massive hits just kept coming; “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up) was followed by “Much Too Young (Too Feel This Damn Old) and then “Callin’ Baton Rouge” which Brooks said is his favorite song to perform. And if the crowd needed whipping into a further frenzy, “Friends in Low Places” was performed right before “The Dance.”

As if we needed further proof of his musicianship, Brooks then did a segment he calls “housekeeping,” in which he chose song requests from signs held up by the audience. These were some of the most intriguing moments of the show, with Brooks alone playing an acoustic guitar. He began his 1997 hit “Fit for a King,” then stopped briefly, saying “I got that way too low, let’s try again,” before turning in a flawless performance. He then acknowledged two young girls in the stands, who he pointed out had been holding up a sign saying “Red Strokes” for most of the show. “Your arms must be tired,” he said, then launched into that 1993 hit. For him to be able to play these songs from his catalog off the cuff is no mean feat.

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

We were now around two hours into the show and guess what, Brooks saved the best for last. He sung the opening to “Shallow,” made famous in the 2018 movie “A Star in Born” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. You could tell it was slowly dawning on the audience that the woman’s part in the song was coming up, and as it did, the goddess who Brooks calls his queen, wife Trisha Yearwood, slowly rose up from beneath the stage with her bedazzled rainbow mic, a black T-shirt emblazoned with a huge gold heart, black leather leggings and black cowboy boots. The wind also played its part in her dramatic appearance.

It takes quite the artist to command the stage so immediately and totally. The moment Brooks and Yearwood faced each other, singing to each other from either end of the massive stage, was my favorite single moment of the night. You could feel the electricity between them; it is obvious he worships her. Yearwood then slayed her hit “She’s in Love with the Boy,” before singing backup on the closer “Standing Outside the Fire,” which is my favorite Brooks song.

As Friday‚Äôs show ended, Brooks told the crowd, “I love you, Utah! Thank you for taking care of me!” I think I can pretty confidently say, straight back to you, Mr. Garth. Utah loves you, too.

And thanks for taking care of us.

Photo: Gephardt Daily/Patrick Benedict

For more information about Brooks’ tour, click here. The final dates of the tour, which began in 2019, will be in Dublin this coming September.

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