Garth Brooks, dubbed by some the Guns N’ Roses of country music, rolled his roadshow into the Forum Friday. Just as he rewrote the rules of what makes a chart-topping artist, Brooks again defied conventional wisdom by setting the same low ticket price ($ 18) for every seat in the house, a move that may advance the notion that the Brooks camp believes in people over profits.
Unlike some of the other country acts that may be all hat and no cattle, Brooks spared no expense to deliver the goods with both precision and enthusiasm.
Friday’s show was filled with energy and emotion, punctuated by plenty of self-effacing, good ol’ boy humor and commentary from the showman himself. There were times when it was hard to tell who was having more fun, Brooks or the SRO audience.
Brooks’ confidence in his material (and his fans) allowed for an unusual set structure: Some of the big-gun hits were fired off early in the set, among them “The Thunder Rolls,” with a midset consisting of tunes that were largely ignored by radio. Brooks then returned to some of the better-knowns, choosing from his three Liberty Records releases.
The packed house was whipped into a frenzy throughout, particularly when a stellar backing band helped Brooks put forth uncompromising versions of “Shameless” and “The River,” latter the latest single from “Ropin’ the Wind.”
An acoustic working of “Unanswered Prayers” was fraught with emotion, demonstrating that there is much more to Brooks than his familiar baritone growls and “yee haw”-like screams.
Opener Martina McBride, who was once a vendor selling concert T-shirts on previous Garth Brooks tours, focused on her recent RCA Records debut, “The Time Has Come.”
Looking like Sheena Easton (pre-“Sugar Walls”) and sounding a bit like Patsy Cline, McBride’s set was a pleasing, albeit no-news blend of more traditional country flavorings, with pop overtones.
“Cheap Whiskey” and the follow up single, “That’s Me,” highlighted her short act.