From Sunday’s Life section of The Oklahoman.
Garth Brooks’ return to stage brings big response in Vegas, Nashville
In fall 2000, Oklahoma country music superstar Garth Brooks retired from touring and recording to raise his three daughters.
In the past decade, the best-selling solo artist in U.S. history has reemerged occasionally for special events, playing charity shows, speaking during the Oklahoma Centennial Spectacular and performing at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Even when he helped cut the ribbon at Tulsa’s BOK Center, performed with his wife, fellow country star Trisha Yeawood, at the 2008 Academy of Country Music Awards, and penned forewords for her two best-selling cookbooks, his focus for the past decade has been on parenting his three girls – now all teenagers – from his first marriage to Sandy Mahl.
But Brooks announced in October 2009 that he was coming out of retirement to play weekend shows at the Encore Theater at the Wynn Las Vegas. The Oklahoma State University graduate likened the stripped-down shows to performances he used to give at Willie’s Saloon, a Stillwater bar where he played several times early in his career.
Each new set of dates have swiftly sold out, and the resort recently raised ticket prices due to overwhelming demand. The weekend arrangement allows him to keep maximizing his time with his family. He isn’t working on any new material.
“Our youngest is a freshman in high school so we still got time before that,” he said in a phone interview earlier this month.
Brooks’ absence from the road has only made fans’ hearts grown fonder. When he and Yearwood announced recently they would play a full arena show in Nashville, Tenn., to aid ongoing relief efforts in the wake of last springs devastating floods, the clamor for tickets was so urgent, they ended up selling out nine concerts, instead of one, in a single day.
With tickets priced at $25, the more than 140,000 tickets sold will allow the concert series to raise $3.5 million.
“That’s sweet, especially in Nashville because that’s a tough place to sell tickets because it’s the industry. These people have seen everything, so you can imagine how floored we were when one went to two, two went to three,” he said. “That was very flattering, but for me, I think it reflected more the giving spirit of anybody. Because I made that call, I asked ‘If there’s ever a time to come see Garth, this is it, because 100 percent of the money is going to people who need it.’ And they, wow, they answered. It was fun.’”
If that assessment seems modest for a star who has sent six albums past the 10 million sales mark, Brooks credits his upbringing for his down-to-earth mindset.
“If you’re raised in Oklahoma, you really don’t need much help being grounded. They all tend to help you out doing that very well,” he said with a laugh.