If it’s true that everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, then Texas Stadium is a fitting locale for Garth Brooks’s latest extravaganza, a mammoth, two-hour, action-packed, effects-laden presentation of the country singer’s roadshow.
Brooks and company clearly spared no expense putting on the performance, which was filmed for an NBC special set to air next May. Four shows of packed-to-the-rafters fans will cheer Brooks through his paces, as the singer reaches an audience of more than 250,000 during the weekend stand. It’s estimated the production cost about $ 6 million.
And it was clearly money well-spent. Fifteen 35mm cameras, including one mounted in a hovering helicopter, captured Brooks and band roaring through their set Thursday, as they delivered a high-octane performance.
Assisted by a lighting complement capable of illuminating a small country, the special effects served to punctuate, rather than detract from, Brooks’ entertaining material.
Flames licked the stage on the set opener, “Standing Outside the Fire,” as Brooks walked through the inferno to get to its center. The heat generated from the controlled fire, however, did make life less comfortable for those in the front rows, where natural conditions had already caused the temperature to soar upward of 100 degrees.
But the stifling heat did not slow the crowd or the singer. Brooks did not pull any punches and his energy level never dipped. Although it was a familiar set list — with some selections from his previous repertoire and others drawn from his latest chart-topper, “In Pieces” (Liberty) — Brooks worked each tune as if it were brand-new.
Crowd faves “Shameless” and “The Thunder Rolls,” the latter reinforced with lightning, booming cloud claps and rainfall, drew some of the evening’s biggest responses. A poignant “If Tomorrow Never Comes” managed to all but silence the large crowd.
But the sight of Brooks flying over the audience during the first encore caused a crowd roar that could have raised the venue’s roof.
Strapped into an almost invisible harness and guide wires, Brooks’ flight came during an all-out version of “Ain’t Going Down (Til the Sun Comes Up).” As Brooks continued to sing, he had face-to-face encounters with those seated across the stadium, nearly 300 feet from the stage in the upper reaches of the nosebleed seats.
The stunt and the larger-than-life concert clearly reinforced the fact that Brooks continues to set the pace, rather than follow it.
The songwriter responsible for some of Brooks’ best-known tunes, Stephanie Davis, who is now a solo artist, had the unenviable task of opening the huge show with a set from her self-titled Asylum debut.
But Davis made the best of the tough row she was given to hoe, surprising and impressing the crowd with a lively perf.