by Kristyn Clarke | March 27, 2017
(CFM) We could hardly believe that it had been nearly twenty years since Garth Brooks has played a show in the City Of Brotherly Love, but once he graced the stage on Sunday evening, the final performance of four shows in Philly it felt as if no time had passed at all.
Our eyes were completely opened as to just why Brooks has received so many accolades over the course of his career. He is truly one heck of an excellent showman! Our attention was glued to the stage from beginning to end, as he was just that darn good! What enhanced the performance even more was that Brooks brought along wife Trisha Yearwood, who provided us with an amazing (but short) set in the middle of Brooks’s over two-hour performance.
Talk about stamina on stage! Brooks even joked with the audience on several occasions about the fact that it was a Sunday night crowd who were even more rambunctious than the crowds they performed for on both Friday and Saturday nights.
Small, but mighty we were (if you can consider a nearly sold-out Wells Fargo Center small) and as an audience we gave back to Brooks as much as he gave to us! Despite being in the middle of a huge arena, Brooks performance felt intimate on some level, as if he were looking out and directly singing to each of us individually. It was actually quite a moving experience and something that this journalist has not experienced during a concert for quite some time.
Brooks pulled out no stops with his arsenal of hits being sure to play old favorites such as “Thunder Rolls”, “Two Pina Coladas”, “The Dance” and of course “Friends In Low Places”. We were also pleased to hear some of his new material make it into the set such as “Baby Let’s Lay Down And Dance” and “Ask Me How I Know” which are incredibly solid.
For his encore Brooks took to reading signs crafted by audience’s members with their song requests performing gems such as “Ireland” and “She’s Tired Of Boys”. Yearwood also threw in a surprise request during her set with “Wrong Side Of Memphis” which we thoroughly enjoyed!
Despite the issue of declining record sales these days these performances more than proved that Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood are still artists that are very much in high demand. The live show is where it’s at and it is wonderful to see that these two have whole-heartedly embraced that fact and are truly giving audiences all they’ve got each and every night.
We had a chance to catch up with both Brooks and Yearwood during a press conference prior to their four sold-out Philadelphia shows. Both Brooks and Yearwood could not stress enough just how excited they were to be back in Philadelphia after a nineteen year absence. When asked how they would rate the Philadelphia fans, to which Yearwood responded, “Being from Georgia I thought that anything north of Tennessee didn’t listen to country music, I mean that was the stereotype in my head, but I learned early on that there are country music fans everywhere. The last time we played in and around Philly the fans were great. There are people everywhere that want to hear songs about life and hear story songs and come bring their family to a show, so yeah, they’re incredible.”
Brooks added, “Philly knows its country music! The reason that we are here is because we’ve been here and these people sing their butts off and truly I think the pressure is more on them that it is on us because we’re back because we know what this town can do and we are expecting that all throughout the weekend.”
Brooks went on to discuss his early retirement from music back in 1998 when the “buses stopped rolling” and he says that they made the decision so that they could go home for awhile and raise their babies and also reminisces about just how much he enjoyed every moment of watching them grow up. Brooks joked that it has been one of the “greatest gifts” to be allowed and accepted back in and now “they are going to have to throw me out” now that he is back and having a great time.
When speaking about some of the other activities the couple planned to do in Philly besides playing music, Brooks revealed that they would be hosting a camp for his Teammates For Kids foundation over the weekend with tons of activities for kids featuring several Philadelphia athletes as well. The main goal of Teammates For Kids is to being teaching these children about the importance of love.
Talking about what they had learned the most after taking some time off, Yearwood says, “Appreciation” to which Brooks follows with “Grateful. There is a level of gratefulness now that I’ve never felt in my life. Getting to do all this at this level this far into your career, with the love of your life and your best friends and you have played music for twenty-five years, seeing faces that you’d hoped you see again and then this whole new generation, it’s pretty amazing to witness.
The tour will celebrate its’ 300th show in Philadelphia and what happens on stage is truly magical. One can only imagine just how exhausted these men and women must be, but they still continue to give it their all each and every night. Brooks and Yearwood were asked what they love the most about touring with one another and they said it was the fact that they didn’t have to leave each other anymore. They can continue to do what they love to do with each other and both a married couple and as best friends.
Speaking on what they are surprised to learn about each other and as a couple during such a lengthy tour, Brooks told us, “Yes. The greatest element of entertainment is surprise. But it is even better when the entertainer gets surprised and that pops out into the crowd and then the crowd gets surprised. Now, that’s wonderful! So, Sunday’s always surprise me. Just watch what happens here on Sunday. We will pull in on Sunday, and I know this town, they will be tailgating, treating it like it’s a football game and they are going to come in with that attitude. The day time shows on Saturday’s surprise me, so the mid-day you think is going to be calmer … oh, hell no! They are ready and they might even have more energy than Saturday night. “
Yearwood adds, “I don’t know how many times I’ve sang “She’s In Love With A Boy” and you would think it would be the same everywhere, but with this tour in particular, it’s very interactive. It has to do with how the audience is responding and what they’re doing. I’ve seen people get proposed to during that song, so then something different happens and it is like that every night. It’s more than a show for me, it’s truly an experience that we’re all having and that’s unique to this tour.”
We spoke to Yearwood a bit about her second Emmy nomination for “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen”. She says, “It’s never something you really put on the list, but I am deeply honored. I get so focused on the music and touring that I don’t even know when the Emmy award nominations even go out, so I don’t really have a chance to go campaign. It is a wonderful surprise.”
Yearwood goes on to reveal that she knew that she wanted to be a singer since the age of five and that was “my path” and that she never dreamed that the cooking thing which is something she also love to do would turn into a second career. She says, “Everything that has happened has been like a happy accident. The show won an Emmy in its second season and we are in season nine now, so I’m just thrilled for it to be nominated again. The difference with this season is that I’m an executive producer, so I’m on the list and I’m happy for the show whatever happens.”
We asked Yearwood how hard it was to switch hats between performing musically and dealing with the TV landscape. She told us, “It is all stuff I really love to do. I love to cook and our show is very casual, it’s not scripted, so right now we are in pre-production for next season which will begin shooting in May. If we’re not in pre-production we’re shooting and if we’re not shooting we’re in post where I’m approving edits of shows, so it’s kind of all the time. But it’s fun, and the tour, this tour, is really intense, it’s a lot, but we’re gone about 50% of the time and we’re home during the week, so I find time to make it all work. The only difference is I get to wear a little more eyeliner on tour than I do in the kitchen.”
Talking about plans for when the tour wraps up, Yearwood tells us, “We are talking. We are done with this tour in December and it has been three years of intensity, so I think we’ll probably take a little bit of time and nap (laughs)! But, Garth says ‘my retiring days are behind me’ and I don’t ever want to stop making music until I can’t anymore so I think we’ll figure it out.”
Speaking again with Brooks we were curious how the changes in the music industry have affected the way he approaches both recording and touring. He tells us, “The biggest effect is that you used to use touring to try stuff out. You can’t now. The second you do it live, it’s out there. So, making live records, because I’m a live record guy, we launched our one live record in 1998, its 20 years old now! It’s time for the next one, especially around the end of this tour which is coming up soon. So, recording live records, especially new stuff on live records is tough. You find ways to kind of bend the rules and find ways around them, you do a little piece of it at a show and then some more at another show and put it all together. The biggest change is just how instant everything is now.”
We told Brooks that we felt our generation (and we are dating ourselves here as 80’s babies) were the last of the album generation where we took the album as a whole and listened to all of it front to back, but now we seem to be trapped in a singles market. Brooks commented, “We just did SXSW and it was fun enough and we did the Fireside Chat with Amazon, our partners, and the one thing that streaming scares me of is discovery. I don’t know how if you are streaming, you discover, because with streaming you are just calling for what you know. You can ask Alexa to ‘play me something I don’t know’ and she will do it, but it’s discovery. That is my only fear about streaming.
I still feel that terrestrial radio is going to be around forever, I really do, because even if streaming does get in the cars, it’s still going to be about that bubble of pushing around stations just to see what you like, so I think terrestrial radio will be here forever. Discovery is the one thing I want us to be really careful about because that is the whole essence of music.”
Finally, we asked Brooks, given the current political climate, in what ways is music a unifying force. He told us, “Music has always been a unifying force. It always has and it always will be. The two things that I’d like to see us believe in what music represents, that’s the main thing, so when someone says ‘what’s going to save music?’ Music always saves music! That’s what it’s about! The big thing when you talk about the political world is that it always takes a catastrophe for us to unite. Can we please unite without the catastrophe? Can we try that? (laughs) I just want us to love one another and I want us to remember that I don’t have to agree with you to love you because I don’t know where somewhere we said if I don’t agree with you, I don’t love you anymore. That’s how we work together because it’s easy for someone to love someone you like, but to love someone you don’t like, that’s love right there!”