Garth Brooks brings hits, makes memories at Ryman

Garth Brooks performs at the Ryman Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, in Nashville.(Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)


Cindy Watts, 6:38 a.m. CDT September 9, 2016

At Ryman Auditorium Thursday night, Garth Brooks was country music.

He was tender and tough, reverent and rowdy, raw yet articulate. He had fiddle and steel guitar, a cowboy hat, nearly two hours of hits and charisma that leapt from the stage to the back row of the balcony and yanked fans from the pews and onto their feet. Joy and passion flowed from the stage and the audience reflected it back at Brooks as they echoed his lyrics, pumped their fists in the air and grown men wiped away tears.

The show represented the past, present and future of the genre that Brooks loved so much as a child that he slept with the radio tuned to the local country station. Decades later, he’s a four-time CMA entertainer of the year, was named the top-selling solo artist in U.S. history and after coming out of retirement in 2014, has played for nearly 5 million people in about two years. Brooks is nominated for the Country Music Association’s top honor again this year — a trophy that will be handed out at the 50th annual CMA Awards 7 p.m. Nov. 2 on ABC. The concert also marked the launch of his The Garth Channel on SiriusXM, located at channel 55.

Garth Brooks performs at the Ryman Auditorium Thursday Sept. 8, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)

In a nod to the past, Brooks opened his show — the first he’s ever played at Ryman Auditorium — with an acoustic montage of songs he felt vital to the fabric of country music. He opened with a few bars of Cal Smith’s “Country Bumpkin,” moved into George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” followed it with a few lines from George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning,” Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again,” Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” and briefly visited Randy Travis’ “I Told You So” before landing on a full version of Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”

When he finished the song, Brooks put his hands together as if he were praying, took his hat off and looked toward the sky as he soaked in the standing ovation.

Then he quipped: “It’s my pleasure to welcome you to a night at the Ryman of Garth Brooks music.” At that moment, the curtain opened revealing his band who kicked off the Country Music Hall of Famer’s signature party song “Friends in Low Places.” He moved from there to “Rodeo,” “Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House” and “The River,” after which he wiped away a tear and opened his arms as if he was collecting the dreams and memories pouring out of the audience.

Brooks picked the pace back up with “Two Pina Coladas” then slowed it again with “Unanswered Prayers,” which turned into a sing along and prompted a Marine on the third row of the balcony to point at heaven and start another standing ovation.

The singer delivered each hit with a vocal quality that rivaled the recorded version and when the sound effects kicked in for “The Thunder Rolls,” it whipped the audience into a new high. Brooks’ wife Trisha Yearwood continued the momentum when she joined him for an emotionally charged version of their duet “In Another’s Eyes.” Brooks then played guitar and sang backup for his wife on her hit “Walk Away Joe” before he introduced their new duet “Whiskey to Wine” from his upcoming fall album.

Garth Brooks performs at the Ryman Auditorium Thursday Sept. 8, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)

“I’m scared to death to play new stuff here,” Brooks told fans. Then he joked that it was “pretty simple stuff,” when an artist shares a new song, the audience simply acts like it’s the best song it has ever heard.

Brooks concluded the main part of his show with “The Dance.”

“Talk about songs you want to play in this building, and this is it for me,” he said.

Following an encore, he returned to do a deep dive into his back catalog including his first hit “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” album cuts “Anonymous” and “Every Time That It Rains” along with “In Lonesome Dove,” which he sang for one of his daughters who was in the audience.

Brooks closed the show with a fervent “Shameless” and “Standing Outside the Fire” then motioned for his band to join him at the edge of the stage for a final bow.

The singer is the show, but the songs are his heart. Brooks elevates his career-making tunes past himself — sending songs into the atmosphere as if he’s merely a conduit to deliver lyrics so vivid and memorable they are timeless yet carry a time stamp for those who have spent 27 years living life to their choruses.

Reach Cindy Watts at (615) 664-2227 or


Garth Brooks Proves He Belongs Inside the Ryman Auditorium

By Billy Dukes September 9, 2016 12:00 PM



Jason Davis, Getty Images

Garth Brooks‘ very first show at the Ryman Auditorium was everything the singer hoped for. His fans got exactly what they expected.

The singer’s stirring two-hour set at the Mother Church of Country Music relied on classics early before turning to Brooks’ own classic catalog. Brooks is a man who seems like he’s taking in the audience’s praise for the first time, every time. But there’s no doubting his heightened awareness of how special the evening was. Time and time again he figuratively bowed down to the hallowed venue. He’d never played a full show there, and in fact, he admitted before the show he was afraid to even step foot inside the Ryman building until his wife Trisha Yearwood forced him to go for a funeral.

Talk before the show centered on which song Brooks would sing first. It’d not only begin his first show at a venue everyone involved in country music cherishes for its acoustics and history, but the chosen song would kick off the Garth Channel on SiriusXM. Channel 55 started broadcasting on Thursday night (Sept. 8) with a livestream of Brooks’ 90-minute set.

He began with a medley. Cal Smith’s “Country Bumpkin” became George Jones‘ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” George StraitRandy Travis and Merle Haggard followed. Brooks even offered a verse of Dolly Parton‘s “I Will Always Love You.”

Officially, Keith Whitley‘s “Don’t Close Your Eyes” started the show. Twenty-five hundred people in attendance went silent for this tribute to a man Brooks idolized. And then the real show began.

The curtains flew open to reveal Brooks’ band at the ready. “Friends in Low Places” came early, then “Rodeo,” “Two of Kind, Working on a Full House” and “The River.” The Country Music Hall of Famer admitted he was starting to feel like he belonged — something the crowd knew years or decades ago, even if he was unsure.

“On a night where I needed you to be at your best,” Brooks said, gesturing to the audience, “you have been unbelievable.”

For a Garth first-timer, his passion is overwhelming. The shouts, fist pumps and raw emotion that comes with every song is unmatched. He’s the only person in country music who seems as if he’s playing as much for his own entertainment as the audience’s.

Yearwood joined Brooks for three songs, including their own duet “In Another’s Eyes” and a new duet called “Whiskey to Wine.” Before the show Brooks said the song would be on his new album, expected this fall. They performed a ballad written in the spirit of Jones and Tammy Wynette — a tortured love that can’t be trusted even if it feels so good.

Like a preacher in front of his congregation, Brooks told the audience to be seated from time to time, but it never lasted more than a chorus or two. Standing ovations seemed to follow every song, and by the time he closed with “Papa Loved Mama,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and “The Dance,” it was futile.

Listeners of the Garth Channel thought the show ended there, but Brooks reemerged for an encore that he said he arranged to be just for those in attendance at the Mother Church. He took requests, and played deep cuts like “In Lonesome Dove” for a daughter he said was in attendance and could sing the song better than him.

“You can bust your butt all over the world,” he said, getting emotional, “but if you can only impress your children …”

“Shameless” and “Standing Outside the Fire” finished the set just after 10PM. The Garth Channel is now live, promising Brooks’ own music, but also songs from artists he appreciates. During a press conference before the show, he said if he likes it, you’ll find it on Channel 55. And unlike Brooks’ Las Vegas show, influences from the 1990s on will be included.

“So you’re gonna hear Ray Charles, Lady Gaga, to George Strait to Bruno Mars? You betcha,” he assures.

There’s no official release date for Brooks’ next album. In addition to touring this fall he’ll be a part of the 2016 CMA Awards, as he’s nominated for Entertainer of the Year once again. He may have picked up a few votes on Thursday night.

Read More: Garth Brooks Proves He Belongs Inside the Ryman Auditorium |

Garth Brooks Wows at First Ryman Show


Photo by Henry Diltz, Copyright Blue Rose, Inc. 2016 

Haggard. Jones. Strait. Those are just a few of the artists Garth Brooks paid homage to Thursday night when he stepped onto the hallowed stage at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville to play his first-ever headlining show at the famed venue.

The iconic entertainer made a decision to never bring his show The Ryman until the time was right. That time finally came last night when he celebrated the launch of The Garth Channel on Sirius XM with a live broadcast of his concert from the award-winning venue. Earlier in the day, Brooks hosted a press conference where he opened up about his why he’s never brought his show to that stage. The reason, he revealed, is simple: he didn’t think he deserved to perform there.

“That’s where the legends live, it’s always killed me,” Brooks told Sounds Like Nashville and other reporters as he looked out at The Ryman from inside the Sirius XM studios. “People that walk in and play that building without going ‘holy shit,’ I don’t know if they get it. Is there anything in your life that you go, ‘I would never. . . that’s where the cool people are’? Whatever that is, that’s that building for me.”

After an acoustic tribute to the legends who graced the Ryman stage before him, Brooks brought the “Mother Church” back in time to the 90s for what became a two-hour sing-a-long to his endless catalogue of hits. Brooks and his longtime touring band kicked it into high gear with “Friends In Low Places” and kept the energy up throughout the entire set.

The Oklahoma native went on to sing “Rodeo,” and “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” before slowing it down a bit with “The River.” “Two Piña Coladas” picked up the pace again, but not for long as Brooks gave his band a break and took lead for a performance of “Unanswered Prayers.”

After the “The Thunder Rolls” and “That Summer,” Brooks’ wife, the incomparable Trisha Yearwood, joined him on stage for a stunning performance of their duet “In Another’s Eyes.” Their chemistry is truly unmatched.

Brooks then begged Yearwood, who he believes is one of the top five female voices in country music, to sing her hit “Walkaway Joe.” Much to the pleasure of the audience, she happily obliged. Her performance more than proved Brooks’ theory.

Before bidding farewell to The Ryman audience, Yearwood stuck around for the debut of a brand new duet, “Whiskey To Wine.” The song, which follows the story of a divorced couple who run into each other while out with their new significant others, has potential to be a major hit. Brooks told the audience that it was from his upcoming album, set to release in the fall.

Brooks rounded out the live broadcast with “Papa Loved Mama,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” and a show-stopping rendition of “The Dance.”

“I don’t know why I stayed away from here for so long,” Brooks told the audience. “I didn’t feel like I belonged here. But I tell you what, if you could have ever sent a message to an artist tonight, you sent it. I feel the love in this room!”

Although the radio broadcast had ended, Brooks returned to the stage for a handful of songs, including “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” “Longneck Bottle,” and “Shameless.” He closed the show with “Standing Outside the Fire” as the audience gave the last of many standing ovations for the stuperstar.

Brooks’ show at The Ryman was billed as “once in a lifetime,” and it was just that. He proved that good music and great songs transcend time. Now we just have to hope that he realizes that he’s more than deserving to play that stage and that it won’t take him so long to return!

The Garth Channel is live on Sirius XM channel 55 now.

Garth Brooks Faces Fears, Honors the Greats at Historic Nashville Show


Jason Davis/Getty Images

Last night, Garth Brooks achieved a dream that he never thought was possible. The country superstar, who has sold out stadiums in record time for years, had never managed to play Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. That was a deliberate choice by Brooks, who admitted he never felt worthy enough to play in the hall during an emotional press conference prior to the show.

“Got to step into ‘The House’ yesterday,” Brooks said, gazing at the Ryman through a window behind him, tears filling his eyes. “It’s a cool place, man. Don’t know if I deserve to be there, but it welcomed me.”



It’s hard to believe that a star as accomplished as Brooks can still feel so emotional over playing a show. But this was not just any concert, and not just any venue. The invite-only event was simulcasted to millions on his brand new SiriusXM station, “The Garth Channel.” This special event gave him the chance to both fulfill a dream and face a longtime fear. For years, he refused to ever visit the Ryman, seeing it as a place where only the greats deserved to be.

“I wouldn’t step foot in there,” he explained. “That’s where the legends live. I’ve been a member of the Opry for twenty five years, and every time they go to the Ryman, they ask me to play. I can’t. That’s where the serious ones play.”

For one night only, Brooks allowed himself to take the same stage as so many of his heroes. By doing so, he wanted to make sure he honored both his fans by playing his greatest hits, and the artists who influenced him through the years. Although he still puts artists like Haggard and Jones on a high pedestal, he credits his music alone for his own success.

“Nothing today – and nothing forever – is about the artist,” Brooks told Wide Open Country. “When I see a little ten year old kid come up to me, and I ask ‘What’s your favorite song,’ and he says “Unanswered Prayers,’ I think, ‘Wow, really?'”

His songs continue to have a huge impact on fans both young and old. But Brooks refrains from giving himself any pats on the back for making it happen. For him, it’s all about the songs.

“If it’s written well enough, I think it’s going to hit no matter what your age is,” Brooks explains. “I love to see the kids out there so young that they have to wear those big headphones, but are still singing every word to every song.”

Brooks’ ability to reach generation after generation was obvious with one look of the crowd gathered inside the Ryman. Middle aged fans who have been there since his early days were intertwined with teenagers and twenty-somethings who grew up listening to his music.

Regardless of age, every concertgoer took notice when Brooks suddenly strode on stage with guitar in hand. Earlier in the day, he had dropped hints about what classic country song he would play first. Would it be Merle Haggard? What about a George Jones classic? He remedied his uncertainty by playing a little bit of them all. He performed a medley of Cal Smith’s “Country Bumpkin,” George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning,” Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again,” Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” and Randy Travis’ “I Told You So” before settling on one final choice.

“I can’t believe I get to do this in this house,” Brooks said with a shaky voice before singing the first few lines of Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”

The emotional performance drew a standing ovation from the crowd, the first of over a dozen that evening. When the curtain rose, revealing Brooks’ longtime backing band, the country star suddenly evolved into the powerful, entrancing figure that we all know and love.

By immediately going into his signature hit, “Friends in Low Places,” the concert became a true Garth concert. Massive singalongs, witty banter and flawless vocals reminded everyone in attendance why Brooks is one of the most influential artists in history.