Watching 53-year-old country singer-guitarist Garth Brooks perform last night at the Q in front of an extremely appreciative crowd during the first of two sold out shows (two more sold out shows take place tonight at the Q), it was hard to imagine he ever retired from touring. The guy seemed to be enjoying himself so much, it’s difficult to believe he could give it up.
And yet, Brooks hasn’t played Cleveland in 19 years, something that added to the festive atmosphere of the gig. Mid-way through the two-and-a-half-hour concert, Brooks even issued a formal apology. “We should have come back a hell of a lot sooner than this,” he said to thundering applause. Throughout the night, Brooks would take a minute to soak in the adulation — he had the capacity crowd on its feet for the entire show.
Brooks made a dramatic entrance to start the show. Amidst blinding strobes and plenty of smoke, Brooks appeared to have beamed himself onto the stage as he magically appeared and then led his 10-piece band into a rendition of “Man Against Machine,” the title track from his latest album. Early in the set, he delivered fan favorites such as “Rodeo,” “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” and “The Beaches of Cheyenne,” songs that turned into rowdy sing-a-longs.
A bit of slide guitar kicked off “Papa Loved Mama” and Brooks practically rapped his way through a boisterous “Ain’t Goin’ Down (Til the Sun Comes Up).” He capably played the narrative-based ballad “Unanswered Prayers” without the accompaniment of his band but brought the group back for “That Summer” and the moody “The Thunder Rolls,” a terrific song that sounded like a cross between Charlie Daniels and Bob Seger. Brooks referred to it as one of favorites too.
Wife Trisha Yearwood came out for the duet “In Another’s Eyes” and then played a short set of her own that included “Prize Fighter,” an anthem she dedicated to anyone who had lost someone to cancer. Brooks then returned to deliver more fan favorites, including the sing-a-long “Friends in Low Places” and the set-ending ballad “The Dance.” He’d return for two encores that included a cover of Aerosmith’s “Fever,” a tune that kicked off with a vigorous fiddle solo, and “I'm Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” one of his oldest tunes.
Given the amount of energy that Brooks expended during the lengthy show, we’d suggest he rewrite the tune. “I"m Much Too Old (To Feel This Damn Young)” would be a more appropriate title.