The BB&T Center was buzzing with energy Thursday night, but it wasn't the Panthers who were causing a scene this time.
The positive vibes instead could be credited to country singers and spouses Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. After a long-awaited return from retirement, Brooks finally came out of his 15-year touring dry spell. The anticipation was so great for his return that a third date was added to his South Florida stop at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. Needless to say, country fans were elated.
Preshow at Thursday night's kickoff, Brooks showed up front-and-ready at his news conference, but his attire suggested otherwise. Wearing a large gray sweatshirt promoting his wife's cooking show (lettering read "Property of Trisha's Southern Kitchen Crew"), faded blue jeans, a baseball cap, and sneakers, Brooks looked like he was ready for a few brews and a football game. And hey, there's nothing wrong with that.
Yearwood, admittedly his more fashionable half, was decked out in tight blue jeans, sneaker wedges, and a sheer black shirt. The news conference was laid-back and casual, covering Yearwood’s cooking show, anticipation for Brooks’ show, and his limited diet. “I have to hide black-eyed peas in his mashed potatoes so he eats them,” chided Yearwood. “I’m a 5-year-old,” Garth replied. Still, Brooks gave ultimate praise for his wife throughout the conference, even though she does make him eat vegetables against his will.
Fast-forward to the show and Garth was a completely different, more energetic animal onstage. After some hype-building with an announcement and countdown, Brooks leaped onstage in a dark-blue shirt, black cowboy hat, and snug jeans. One of his newest songs, “Man Against Machine,” kicked off the show. Jumping and running across the stage, it’s hard to believe that a mere few hours ago this man was in a sweatshirt and jeans, casually talking to media (oh, me and my mother, of course). “Let’s raise hell!” Brooks said before launching into an energetic Dennis Robbins cover of “Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House.”
“Oh, you guys were serious,” joked the cowboy during the uproarious cheering. You would have never guessed he wore a guitar across his chest the way that man ran around onstage. “I’m 132 years old,” Brooks panted after “Beaches of Cheyenne.” He continued, “The only way I’m going to get to the weekend is if you all carry me.
“Speaking of old songs, let’s see who knows the words to the old songs,” Brooks went on. Briefly slowing things down, the classic “The River” lit up the crowd as cell phones waved like lighters to the music.
The expression on Brooks’ face said it all: He missed touring. Much like a child on Christmas (albeit, a very large child that is much too caffeinated), there was nothing but pure energy and joy in his face. After a couple more singles, like "Two Piña Coladas,” “Papa Loved Mama,” and “Ain't Goin' Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up),” Brooks' happiness played out onstage during his various sprints, playful smacking of the cymbals, and climbing on the drummer’s plastic cage. At one point, Brooks even grabbed a video camera and ran down the stage with it, not even losing his breath.
After a rowdy contest to see which side of the crowd could scream loudest, Brooks finally brought the energy back down to a simmer with “Unanswered Prayers," and the audience sang along the whole time. “I usually don’t play ballads back to back, but I got to hear more of that,” he praised, before launching into “To Make You Feel My Love."
After a few more songs, including “Thunder Rolled," Trisha Yearwood emerged for a duet of “In Another’s Eyes." The steamy act ended with both artists facing each other, but alas, no kiss (yet). Yearwood took the stage solo for “XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)," “How Do I Live," “PrizeFighter,” and, of course, “She's in Love With the Boy." Brooks emerged onstage during the last single, and they finally kissed.
Brooks took the stage again with a countrified rendition of Billy Joel’s “Shameless” and played his hits “The Dance” and “Friends in Low Places." “We aren’t singing the third verse of ‘Friends in Low Places’ on the World Tour,” Brooks teased audience members. But of course, the infamous third verse was sung by both him and attendees with much gusto, especially on the word “ass."
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“We’ve been doing this for 25 years… I can’t believe I still get surprised to this day,” said Brooks with a large grin on his face. And audience members must have been surprised as well, with the unfaltering energy, impromptu singing of songs posted on numerous fan signs, and not one but two encores.
Although it didn’t seem like it would ever end, it did. Broad smiles adorned the majority of audience members’ faces, even when jam-packed and walking toward the exit. Brooks, we’re glad you’re back. Please don’t ever retire again — the country world needs you.
Natalya Jones is a food and music writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in entertainment and fun things to do in South Florida, follow her on Twitter.