Back in 1985, an entertainment attorney from Dallas named Rod Phelps caught wind of a young country singer who’d been wowing audiences in Oklahoma honky-tonks and bars, so he drove up to a Tulsa club to see Garth Brooks play. Impressed, Phelps produced Brooks' first demo, establishing a North Texas connection with the biggest name in country music that has lasted nearly four decades.
Brooks' concert Saturday night at AT&T was a love letter to a region that made his career, the fans who have supported him since the beginning and the people closest to him who have made his career possible.
It all started simply with an opening set from Nashville singer-songwriter and Brooks collaborator Matt Rossi, who sang a short set of country favorites from the likes of George Strait and David Allan Coe while clad in a Roger Staubach jersey.
Rossi thanked the audience and introduced the night's next warm-up act, none other than Trisha Yearwood. Radiant and smiling brightly, Yearwood gave the audience exactly what they wanted with a short set of songs that included the ballad "How Do I Live" and the pop country smash hit "She's In Love with a Boy," complete with kiss cam, and of course, a few awkward kisses.
When Ms. Yearwood left the stage, a countdown beckoning the approach of Mr. Yearwood came up on the stadium's enormous screens, and when the countdown finished, Amazon's Alexa sounded out, "play Garth Brooks live in Dallas."
To say that the crowd went wild is an understatement. It was pandemonium when Brooks took the stage in the round, rising up from beneath the drum kit and opening with the only new song he would play, "All Day Long," from the his 2020 album Fun. The song was, in all honesty, a rough start to the night, with overhead video of the lyrics encouraging people to sing a song they barely knew, assuming they had even heard it at all.
Brooks promised the audience that he, too, would hate it if he went to a concert and all he heard was the new stuff and went straight into his 1991 single "Rodeo." As rough as the start was, by the time it was "bulls and blood...dust and mud," the greatest showman in country music had officially hit his stride.
Over the course of 19 songs and a seven-song encore, Brooks and company took the audience through the classic songs, bringing back all the memories that had brought us to this time.
Brooks also played homage to the music that inspired him, shouting out names like George Strait, Randy Travis and Keith Whitely, before launching into a cover of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Fishing in the Dark."
Midway through the set, Brooks acknowledged a fan holding a sign for "New Way to Fly" from 1990's No Fences and proceeded to play a solo, acoustic version of the song, saying that this was also Yearwood's favorite song of his.
Introducing guitar player Mark Casstevens from the iconic studio group the G-Men as the guitarist who wrote every intro to any Garth Brooks song you know, Brooks said the whole audience would know the penultimate song by the first four notes.
That's when more than 100,000 people started singing every single word to "Friends in Low Places," which included the mysterious third verse heard only in live versions of the song in which the last lines are "Just wait 'til I finish this glass, and sweet little lady I'll head back to the bar, and you can kiss my ass!"
The encore was an absolute delight, with Brooks circling the stage reading more fan signs and doing his best to fill the requests, playing the first verse of "The Red Strokes" and "She's Every Woman."
The night ended with Brooks paying special tribute to his wife who, Brooks said to the surprise of many in the audience, had sung backup on over 100 of his songs. The two sang their cover of "Shallow" and closed with the barn-burner "Standing Outside the Fire" with Yearwood singing backup.
In 1993, Garth Brooks performed a legendary concert at the old Texas Stadium in Irving for an NBC broadcast. He was already a major success at that point, but that concert, with Brooks literally standing outside fire and flying through the audience, established him as an artist bigger than country music.
By the end of the night, Brooks apologized to the fans and Jerry Jones for not doing Saturday night's concert a decade earlier, calling the night the greatest he had ever had in our fair region.
"Dallas," Brooks said, "where it all started...comes full circle. My career is complete."