Garth Brooks

It raised $ 1 million for One Voice, a local non-profit charity assisting low-income families. And that was just one of the many high points of country singer Garth Brooks' concert Thursday at the Hollywood Bowl, where Brooks, supported in parts by the Bowl Orchestra, in parts by his own band, cruised through a set mixing pop classics and nearly every one of the country singer's best-known songs.

With:
Band: Brooks, Mark Greenwood, Mike Palmer, Betsy Smittle, Steve McClure, Dave Gant, James Garner, Jim Horn, Debbie Nimms, Terry McMillan; with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

It raised $ 1 million for One Voice, a local non-profit charity assisting low-income families. And that was just one of the many high points of country singer Garth Brooks’ concert Thursday at the Hollywood Bowl, where Brooks, supported in parts by the Bowl Orchestra, in parts by his own band, cruised through a set mixing pop classics and nearly every one of the country singer’s best-known songs.

Brooks surprised the audience when he casually walked out onstage behind the members of the orchestra without any fanfare, and he was visibly nervous about how this presentation would go over.

After admonishing the house to expect some shortcomings, Brooks performed a near-flawless, near-acoustic set, making the warning clearly not required. The “acoustic” effort — actually a misnomer, as the singer still used his band and often delivered full versions of his tunes — delighted the legion of western-attired fans.

Paired with individual band members from his road company, Brooks drew from his five-disc repertoire, with healthy doses of tracks from his current Liberty Records album, “In Pieces.”

But it was when he was aided by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra that Brooks seemed to particularly light up, as he put the professional musicians-for-hire through their paces.

“The Thunder Rolls,” one of Brooks’ biggest guns, was markedly improved over its original with the addition of the orchestra, its sound filling the house and taking on an almost 3-D quality.

Brooks also succeeded in getting the members of the orchestra to participate in his shtick, convincing the tux-clad classical contingent to belt out the choruses on “Friends in Low Places”– quite a sight, considering the tune’s decidedly blue-collar leanings.

This participatory enthusiasm also spilled over into the season-ticket holders, whose pre-show picnic of quiche and Chardonnay seemed at odds with the beer and pretzel set dominating the house.

But by show’s end, Brooks clearly won the favor of these folks, many of whom could be seen leaning over to their Stetson-sporting seat-mates to ask about song titles.

The success of Brooks’ countrified tracks during the two-hour performance begged the question of why the singer felt compelled to drop into the mix a trio of pop classics, among them the Elton John classic “Candle in the Wind” and Don McLean’s anthem “American Pie.”

Momentarily putting aside that the songs are two of a handful in the history of music that have never been duplicated on any level, Brooks’ attempt at nostalgia provided the only valley in an evening otherwise full of peaks.

Ultimately, none of the show’s offerings allowed Brooks to shine brighter than “The Dance,” the set finale, which reached new heights when backed by the orchestra as it provided a full-bore arrangement replete with stirring strings and haunting piano passages, to one of the singer’s most moving and best-crafted tunes.

Garth Brooks

(Hollywood Bowl; 17,619 seats; $ 25 top)

Production: Reviewed July 14, 1994.

Cast: Band: Brooks, Mark Greenwood, Mike Palmer, Betsy Smittle, Steve McClure, Dave Gant, James Garner, Jim Horn, Debbie Nimms, Terry McMillan; with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

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