That Garth Brooks Is Quite A Teacher

The first time I saw Garth Brooks in concert, it was 1992-ish. I was still in school at Mississippi State, and thanks to a couple of my best guy friends who played the “No Fences” CD non-stop, I’d been listening to Garth’s music for a couple of years. I had no idea what to expect from him as a performer when I went to that first concert, but as soon as he hit the stage, it was evident that he was going to put on a show like most of us in that audience had never seen before. He was just phenomenal – fun and energetic and self-deprecating and grateful. As far as concerts go, it was high point.

About six years later, David and I got to go to another Garth Brooks concert in Baton Rouge. It was packed and lively (Geaux Tigers) and worth the price of tickets just to be able to sing “Callin’ Baton Rouge” in Baton Rouge. That night was hands-down one of my top five memories during my three years of living in that part of the country, and I honestly never expected that another Garth Brooks show could top it.

But this past Friday night in our beloved Birmingham flat-out changed my mind.

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A lot has changed in the 17 years since our last Garth Brooks concert. We’re parents now, we’ve hit our 40s, and we’re probably way more boring than we ever thought we’d be when we were fresh-faced newlyweds screaming “Friends in Low Places” at the top of our lungs. There’s no question that my mental / spiritual / emotional frame of reference is different than it was back in 1998 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center; that may be part of the reason why I’ve been thinking so much about the concert we just saw here in Birmingham.

And here’s the thought that I cannot shake:

We can all learn a few things from Garth.

Now don’t get me wrong. Garth didn’t stand on the stage this past Friday night and wax philosophical for 2 1/2 hours. He just did his thing. He sang his heart out and hopped across the stage and entertained the fire out of us. He, his band, and the incomparable Trisha Yearwood put on an incredible show that honestly surpassed anything I saw them do in the 90’s. The fact that most of the lyrics have gotten deeper and richer with time was an added bonus. And from start to finish, it was all so stinkin’ good that David turned to me on the way home and said, “You know what? He should win CMA Entertainer of the Year just for that. Just for that one show. HAND HIM THE TROPHY.”

And that’s when we started to talk about the lessons.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent too much time in classrooms, or maybe it’s because of the speaking stuff I do, or maybe it’s just because I’m a nerd (true that), but I am infinitely fascinated by what people do to communicate / entertain / teach effectively. I really do think it’s interesting to see how folks earn an audience’s respect and convince them to listen to whatever they have to say or sing. And after this past Friday night’s show, I’m more certain than ever that when it comes all these things, Garth Brooks can flat-out school some folks.

Here’s why.

1. He communicates genuine affection for the people in the audience.

If you’ve sat at a Garth Brooks show for longer than five minutes, you’re fully aware of how much he appreciates his audience. He says so right off the bat, and his actions back up his words. Whether you’re on the front row, way up in the nosebleeds, or sitting behind the stage, you know that you matter, and you know that he doesn’t take a single person for granted. From the outside looking in, it seems like he operates out of a philosophy that when people have spent their money and their time to see someone in concert, there’s an inherent responsibility to make it worth their while. His shows have a huge return on investment for audience members; people leave feeling like they got their money’s worth – and then some.

2. He’s loyal to his team.

There’s something super refreshing about hearing someone speak highly of his / her co-workers / co-laborers / cohorts. When Garth Brooks talks about the people in his band, his words are warm and personal. That coupled with the fact that the rookie of his band has “only” been with him for 20 years speaks volumes. It’s easy to get on board with someone who clearly takes care of his people.

3. He’s excellent at what he does.

In an industry that can sometimes be flash over substance, Garth Brooks is the real deal. He sings every song like it’s his favorite, and he sounds better than ever. His concerts are perfectly paced, a well-timed mixture of fast-moving and laid-back. He’s high-energy without being exhausting (I’ve been in other concerts where, after four or five borderline manic songs, I mostly wanted to scream “ENOUGH” and walk out), and he’s infectious without being insincere. He’s a gifted entertainer who leaves it all on the stage; no one can ever accuse him of phoning it in.

4. He puts first things first.

Garth Brooks walked away from his career 14 years ago so that he could focus on being a good daddy to his girls. Most people would say that he’d never recover from that kind of break. But sold-out arenas all over the country – three sold-out shows in Birmingham alone – tell a different story. His willingness to sacrifice for his family is a great reminder to pay attention to what gets our “yes” and to remember that we can always go back to whatever gets our “no.”

5. He reminds us that it’s never too late.

So often we can think that if we aren’t at the height of our career or our calling by the time we’re 32, we’ve missed the boat. Or we may panic in our mid-40s because we feel like our best years are behind us. But that’s not even a little bit true. Garth Brooks is 53, and he hasn’t missed a step. I’m not sure that he’s even started to hit his prime. He could give any young bro-country whippersnapper (no offense, bro-country whippersnappers) a run for his money. What a reminder to run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1) and GET AFTER IT. Age is of no consequence when it comes to our calling.

*****

Life lessons aside, a Garth Brooks concert is just about the best thing going right now. So if he’s performing anywhere near you, GO. GOOOOOO. You will enjoy his show like nobody’s business. You’ll marvel at how well his songs have held up over the years, you’ll go home and listen to some of his newer stuff, and you’ll want to call your local country station and tell them to PLAY GARTH’S NEW ALBUM, ALREADY (seriously, country music stations: please play Garth’s new album…arenas are filled with people who clearly want to hear his music).

So. There you have it: my two cents that nobody asked for. But after growing a little weary of a country music culture that’s filled with songs about big trucks, hot girls, and cold beer (plus tailgates! we can’t forget tailgates!), David and I found it utterly refreshing to spend a beautiful summer night listening to (and learning from) one of country music’s all-time greatest entertainers.

Thanks for that, Garth Brooks.

We sure did have a blast in your class.

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Comments

  1. Amen, Sophie…to all of what you said! We went to the 10:30 show (started at 11:40) last night and I could NOT believe he had just put on another huge show for 3 hours beforehand! He gives it is all and you can tell he is so humble and grateful. :) Best concert ever!

  2. Missy Bush says:

    I guess that life is there to teach us in unexpected places, if we are paying attention. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Yes to all of this! We were at the second Saturday night show, and it was worth every penny (and the effects of not getting home until 3:30 in the morning)! We’ve had similar conversations ever since. I have so much respect for him. He knows who he is and what works, and all these years later, it still works. I loved that his band members had been with him for so long, and I love your point about being able to come back to our “nos”. I Googled his age and Tricia’s on the way home and was duly impressed!

  4. I agree with everything you said. We saw him in Atlanta last September – hands down the best concert I’ve ever been to!

  5. Rebecca says:

    Oh, this made me ache even more that he had to cancel his Tampa shows because of the HOCKEY! I am glad however that you enjoyed the show and we keep hoping the tour will circle back this direction and if it happens to stop oh you know in O-town instead, that would be the proverbial icing on the cake!

  6. Saw him earlier this year in Pittsburgh and in State College, PA (and many years ago in the same locales). Garth is still just as, if not more, amazing than he was 20 years ago. I agree 100% with everything you said. Just amazing, inside and out. It’s easy to truly like everything about him.

  7. Stephanie Pickle says:

    My sister went to the concert also and she said it was amazing. She has loved Garth Brooks since she was very little. She said he moved like he was 20 years old.

  8. Mary B. says:

    Everything that you said is totally correct. My husband and I went Saturday nights 7:00 show. He put on a fabulous show. I would go again.

    • Susan B says:

      He moved more like he was 40 at our concert…but hey, I thought that was pretty good! :-)

  9. You so nailed it!

  10. We met him backstage at the Grand Ole Opry a few years ago. I had always liked his music, but had never seen him in concert. When I taught school, I had his drummer’s children in my class & when I met him that evening I told him about it & he hung on my every word like I was the only person in the room. Then when we got our picture made together my husband headed over (really, honey!??!) to get in it with me & Garth stopped him and said “excuse me sir, this lady having her picture now”…oh, WHAT a gentleman!!

    A couple of years later we saw him in concert in Nashville & his genuine LOVE & humble appreciation of the crowd just blew me away! I completely agree with you Sophie, GOOOOOO…NOW! His show is incredible!

  11. Love this!

  12. GAL!
    Oh this made me long to see that awesome Garth and the wonderful Trisha. Alas, it seems as though i have missed seeing him. It looks like New Orleans is his last stop for this tour. But I’m living vicariously through your post. LOVED IT!! So true.

    Go gal! Go Garth!
    your gal,
    p

  13. I 100% agree!!! I’ve been to many a country concert in my 26 years, but Saturday night’s 10:30 show was SO MUCH MORE. It was the BEST CONCERT/SHOW/ANYTHING I’ve ever seen. He was so energetic and excited but also obviously appreciative of the fans who waited a sweet forever outside in line to see him. I have been a fan of Garth for longer than I can remember (I even wanted to marry him for a few years!), and I can say without a doubt that he will forever be my #1!

  14. What a wonderful tribute to Mr. Brooks! I hope that somehow he sees this. And I love that you wrote about him so fondly and enthusiastically.

  15. Attended the 7 pm show Sat night in Birmingham… the best concert ever!

  16. I’m so glad you had such a great experience! I went to a Keith Urban concert once and could not get over how he gave 150% the entire time. And he just kept singing, it was like he didn’t want the concert to end! I’ve been to other concerts and I’ve never seen anything like Keith’s. My mom was with me and afterwards she kept saying “I thought he was going to walk us out to our cars!”

  17. Well, the lessons – such a great read!

    But let’s get down to business: Did you get to ask Trisha about her kitchens?

  18. Kelly F. says:

    I was at the late show Saturday night in Birmingham. Oh. My. Word. He was even better than he was 20 years ago when I saw him in college.

  19. I’ve never been to a Garth Brooks concert, but would love to. Sounds like it was fantastic. I’ve geard that Kenny Chesney, while not exactly a bro-country whippersnapper, goes to the very last row in the very top seat in every arena he plays so that he can get a sense of what each of his fans will see and so that he can remember to sing for them, too. Class acts!

  20. Anne M. says:

    Garth put on a great concert.. Husband and I attended the Friday night concert in Birmingham. Please Garth come back soon,.. 18 years is a long time to wait between shows

  21. Susan Bass says:

    Love this post! I just saw him for the first in Knoxville on May 28th, the EXTRA show they added due to high demand for tickets. It was great seeing him live, even though (or maybe especially because) he doesn’t run around the stage like he did in the 90’s on the concerts I’ve seen on television. What a wonderful show. Seems to be happy and humble in spite of mistakes in the past and incredible fame….

  22. Saw him in Denver and can’t agree with you more! He gets more awesome with age that’s for sure! I also love that his tickets were the same price for the whole arena in Denver no matter if you were front row or nose bleed, everyone paid the same. Class act!

  23. Fun post! As a big Garth Brooks fan who won’t be able to attend a concernt of his due to living too far away from anywhere he’ll ever perform, I love to read that his concerts are so great. I also liked your spot on analysis of current mainstream country music. He’s so refreshing to hear after all of that noise.

  24. Lynette says:

    Saw him in Knoxville and it was – hands down – the best show I’ve ever been to!!! Saw him there at Thompson Boling the last time he was in town, too.

  25. Michele says:

    Saw him in Little Rock back in December – first time he’d been here in 23 years. Hands down best concert I’ve ever been to (I missed him when he came through town the first time). We stood the entire 3+ hour concert singing along to every song. I kind of wonder if there’s a Benjamin Button thing going on…he doesn’t seem to age at all…he was on top of the drum kit within the first 30 minutes. My fave moment was when Trisha was singing her second song, and I caught a glimpse of a guy playing guitar in her band. I thought, ‘that guy is wearing the same shirt Garth is wearing….oh wait, that IS Garth!’ He’d just slipped backstage after their duet and then quietly came out to join her band during the rest of her set. Cannot say enough good things about him or his tour – if you get the chance to go, do NOT miss the opportunity.

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