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Garth Brooks hopes to give fans ‘best time of their life’

Updated July 9, 2021 - 7:15 pm

Before playing to 65,000 Saturday night at Allegiant Stadium, Garth Brooks outlined what it would take to being him back to a cozy Las Vegas Strip theater.

Brooks, of course, headlined off and on at Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas in a universally praised and commercially successful run from 2009-2014.

“What we did was make it an intimate night. We made it very personal,” Brooks said during a media session at Allegiant Stadium, where he performs Saturday night. “That’s what I’m looking for. “

A few gorgeous venues have opened since Brooks closed at the Wynn, including Park Theater at Park MGM. The Colosseum at Caesars Palace has been renovated, and has reinforced its headliner schedule. Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood has emerged as a major player on the Strip, The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (the former Joint at The Hard Rock Hotel) is also refreshed with its headliner series, and The Theater at Resorts World Las Vegas has announced Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan as its initial headlining roster.

So Brooks could, conceivably, have the pick of the market.

“A lot of these places are great, and the guys at Park MGM and at Caesars are all sweet guys, but they have these big-ass, 4,000-seat, 5,000-seat rooms,” Brooks said. “Those are a little harder to play a one-man show or a little band thing.”

Brooks is in no hurry to make a move on a Vegas residency, having just launched his U.S. tour in Las Vegas.

“So, you just kind of wait and see what comes up,” he said. “But anything that’s intimate, anything that’s sincere, that’s right down my alley.”

During the press conference on Friday, Brooks acknowledged some changes in the concert world since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This one’s going to be a little different. From here to the end of (2021), our goal is for these people to come have the best time of their life, but also to have the safest time,” Brooks said. “What they’re saying here is, ‘We’re going to open, but we’re gonna do it responsibly.”

Brooks was originally scheduled to headline in August 2020. The show was then moved to February, before finally landing on Saturday night. Brooks is actually the second ticketed performer to play the stadium, following EDM star Illenium on Saturday night.

Anticipating he would not actually be the first headliner at Allegiant, Brooks said he was happy just to play such a facility in this city. He said, “The stadium is going to be bigger than anyone playing it, no offense to the people playing it. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. If you have a bad experience, that’s on me.”

“I still get to brag that we were the first show that was booked here. And now, we know that the toilets work, everything works. They’re saying, ‘It’s ready for your people to see you!’ ”

A ‘no-brainer’ idea

Brooks did mention he might be up for a co-headlining show with his superstar wife, Trisha Yearwood, down the line in Las Vegas. Yearwood appeared occasionally in Brooks’ previous shows at the Wynn.

“I know, anywhere I go, the difference in a Garth Brooks show and a Trisha Yearwood show is, nobody at a Trisha Yearwood show asks where Garth is, right?” Brooks said. “But with me, the whole time is talking about Trisha. People love her, people worship her, she’s one of the greatest singers ever, when she gets to do her thing. I think it’s a no-brainer to do a Garth-and-Trisha show.”

The 75th-anniversary conundrum

Brooks and Yearwood are on the guest list for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter’s 75th wedding anniversary, set for 3 p.m. Eastern time at Plains High School in Georgia. Brooks said he was going to try to make the cross-country dash to the party and be back in Vegas in time for his show, which starts at 7 p.m.

“It depends on how this goes,” Brooks said, gesturing toward the sound check from the in-the-round stage. “Another thing is the weather, but it’s an honor just to be on the list.” It would take an almost flawless, super-hero effort for Brooks to make an appearance with the Carters and return in time for the show.

Brooks marvels at the Carters’ spirit. They are the longest-married first couple in U.S. history.

“I hope you take this with all the sincerity in the world, but if there were two people you wanted to be like — no offense to you and me — it would be them,” Brooks said. “They are so sweet. You build (homes) with them, they’re real, they get in fights all the time about measurements. You just try to get small around them, you know? They’re just real passionate about what they do.”

He added, “I’m 60, and I would hope to be in as shape is they are in their 90s … If you wondering how to live your life, there are a lot of great examples out there, if you just open your eyes.”

The D.I. memory

Brooks recalled the first show he ever played in Las Vegas. He headlined five shows beginning Jan. 17, 1991 at the since-razed Desert Inn, now Wynn/Encore. Then, as now, Brooks dealt with external news events.

“The crazy thing was, we were driving out here, getting ready to play it, and the United States had declared war on Iraq,” Brooks said. Brooks’ co-headliner was Carlene Carter, who is Johnny Cash’s stepdaughter and the daughter of late country singing stars June Carter Cash and Carl Smith.

“So we have five nights, Carlene Carter is with us, and we meet June Carter Cash, who was so sweet,” Brooks said. “But there was this kind of feel where we were playing and weren’t sure if tomorrow was going to come at that point.”

Booked at , Brooks was given headliner treatment.

“They treated us like we superstars, even at that point,” Brooks said. “I didn’t know this would be the future for this town and me, but they treated us like we were special.”

Weight it out

Brooks has slimmed some during COVID, and is leaner than he was in the Encore days and also his most recent Vegas appearance in June and July 2016 at T-Mobile Arena.

Hitting the gym?

“Just getting ready for this,” Brooks said. “You know me, man, you have seen me go up and go down, but going down isn’t as fast as going up these days. It’ll probably come back up, but right now I’m just enjoying it right now.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.