Local Current Blog

Garth Brooks at Target Center: A historic night with a born showman

Garth Brooks performs at Target Center on Nov. 6. Photos by Bridget Bennett for MPR.

No, he didn’t do any Chris Gaines songs, but thanks for asking.

When I found out I’d be attending the Garth Brooks concert at Target Center in Minneapolis, I was pretty stoked. Not only do I have fond memories of listening to Garth Brooks in my sister’s car and in my dad’s garage, but I really wanted to be a part of one of the biggest music events in Twin Cities live music history. With over 200,000 tickets sold for 11 concerts, it became clear that Minnesotans love country music—and particularly love Garth Brooks. As far as Garth is concerned, he’s making it very clear at Target Center that the feeling is mutual.

I invited my sister to attend the concert with me, since she’s an even bigger Garth Brooks fan than I am. She saw Garth back in the late 90s when he played the Twin Cities on his farewell tour. We found out when we arrived at Target Center for the early show on Friday that we’d be seeing the concert from the floor—tenth row. What a way to experience it! My sister would comment later that Garth clearly isn’t in the same shape he was back in the late 90s. He wasn’t running around as much and dangling from cables, and at times he seemed really out of breath. He even stood and let the crowd cheer for extended periods between songs, clearly a way for him to catch his breath for the next song. He still gave his all, regardless; at one point he stated the obvious—he’s an older man now, age 52 and “about a biscuit shy of 300 pounds.”

We arrived just as a voice came over the intercom to give the warning that Garth would be out in five minutes. I’ve never been to a concert with an actual countdown to start the show! When the one-minute mark happened, a large counter showed up on the screen and when the clock ran out, a shadow image of Garth Brooks appeared and the concert started with the title track to his new record, “Man Against Machine.” The stage lights looked like they were closing in on the band, like Garth Brooks was in some sort of strange Matrix-like world.  After that, he kicked into ALL. THE. HITS.

The entire crowd was on their feet.  The cheering was deafening. With all the singalong to songs like “Rodeo,” “Two Pina Coladas,” “The River,” and “The Thunder Rolls,” Garth Brooks could take breaks from singing and he just let the crowd do the work. I got a kick out of the fact that he still performs in his black cowboy hat and his wireless “face microphone.” You know the one; it looks like a drive-thru mic.

About halfway through the show, Trisha Yearwood came out on stage to join her husband, Garth, for a duet “In Another’s Eyes.” Garth grabbed a guitar and stepped out of the spotlight to make way for his bride to be the center of attention. Before she sang her hit song “How Do I Live,” she introduced it by saying it was recorded for the movie Con Air. Sorry, Nicolas Cage, but I think the song outdid the movie in this case.

When she’s not taping her Food Network show Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, Yearwood’s been working on a new record and she performed a new song called “Prizefighter.” She also did a song inspired by a town in Minnesota…that would be St. Cloud, namesake of the song “On a Bus to St. Cloud.” Yearwood commented how fun it is to sing that song when she’s actually in Minnesota and how she got the key to the city when she played St. Cloud back in the day. Her set wrapped up with another hit, “She’s in Love with the Boy,” complete with a kiss cam on the big screen.

By this time, the young men in front of us, decked out in cowboy hats, were having the time of their lives and singing along to every song. They couldn’t have even been born when Garth Brooks’s first record came out, but they’re clearly drinking age now; I’ve never seen anyone hold three tallboys in one hand before.

After Yearwood’s set, it was back to the Garth Brooks show. He was out of the spotlight playing guitar during Yearwood’s set, then kicked back into things with his cover of Billy Joel’s song “Shameless,” which Brooks took to number one on the country charts in 1991. Earlier, he’d also played his cover of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love,” a song that was also a hit for Billy Joel.

When Garth played the first four notes of “Friends in Low Places,” the crowd erupted so loudly that I almost lost my balance. And Garth ate it up! He stopped playing, let the crowd cheer, and then invited everyone to sing with him. Not that he needed to, every song was a group sing-along anyway. He even played the infamous “third verse” from “Friends in Low Places,” which is a familiar story to longtime fans of Garth: a cheeky rewrite of the original lyrics that Garth has been performing live since shortly after the song was released in 1990.

During the encore, the stage transformed with risers lifting the keyboard player and guitar player. During the entire show, the drummer was encased in some sort of rollerdome—a lighted, ball mechanism. During the encore the ball was lifted in the air and started spinning. Garth was sliding back and forth on the stage on some sort of conveyer belt. I found myself wishing those eye-popping stage effects would’ve come out earlier in the show.

By the time the encore rolled around, I wondered how much longer Garth was going to play. I figured he’d have to quit by 9 p.m., in order for Target Center workers to usher 18,000 people out the door, clean up all the Coors and Mich Golden cans, and then usher in another 18,000 in for the late show at 10:30. After the show, I learned it wasn’t as smooth as organizers would’ve hoped. First Avenue in front of Target Center was closed and acted as a holding pen for all the people waiting in line to see the late show. By the time everyone was in and seated, the show started around 11:45 p.m., but he played until 2 a.m. I’m not sure how Garth Brooks has the strength for two shows a night, but I’m glad I experienced at least one of them.

I strolled out of Target Center with a smile on my face, reflecting on what a fun experience it was to see a country superstar and born showman like Garth Brooks do his thing in front of a packed arena. The crowd explosions and cheering had deafened me to the point of not hearing my sister when she warned me of the big pile of horse poop I was about to step in (the Minneapolis police were out in full force on horseback). Instead of sneakers, I realized, I should’ve showed up in boots—blame it all on my roots.

Set list

Garth Brooks

“Man Against Machine” (new song, name of his new record)

“Rodeo”

“Two of a Kind (Workin on a Full house)”

“Beaches of Cheyenne”

“Two Pina Coladas”

“The River”

“Papa Loves Mama”

“Ain’t Goin Down (Till the Sun Comes Up)”

“Unanswered Prayers”

“Make You Feel My Love”

“Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)”

“The Thunder Rolls”

“People Loving People” (new song)

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood

“In Another’s Eyes”

Trisha Yearwood

“XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)”

“How Do I Live”

“Prizefighter” (new song)

“On a Bus to St. Cloud”

“She’s in Love with the Boy”

Garth Brooks

“Shameless”

“Callin’ Baton Rouge”

“Friends in Low Places”

“The Dance”

Encore

“The Fever”

“If Tomorrow Never Comes”

“That Summer”

“Standing Outside the Fire”

  • Timothy M. Wirtz

    I saw the opening night concert. I had never seen him before live. I was impressed at not only his ability physically for a 52 year old (I’m only slightly younger and no way would I be able to do that) but also for his genuine humility and appreciation of Tricia, the band members and the audience. He puts on a great show.

  • I never really followed country music however, Garth Brooks, along with Randy Travis and Alan Jackson were one of my favorite country singers @ mixley.com