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Concert Review: Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood Dial Up ’90s Nostalgia on World Tour

Garth Brooks concert review
Angela Stefano, The Boot

There’s no denying that country music — and, really, the world as a whole — has changed an awful lot since the 1990s. But ’90s nostalgia is hot right now, and Garth Brooks‘ World Tour, which also features his wife Trisha Yearwood as a special guest, lays it on thick … in a good way.

True, there were cell phones up in the air, rather than lighters, during Brooks’ first of six concerts in Buffalo, N.Y., on March 5, than there were when he last played the city in 1998. And Brooks’ current stage set features fancier video screens and more high-tech surprises than it did on his late-’90s World Tour II (not to mention a drawer in the drum riser for instant access to water, which is just plain cool). But otherwise, Brooks’ two-hour show is all about the decade when he was country’s leading man.

Brooks played just three songs off Man Against MachineĀ during this particular show — and judging by other setlists, which do vary slightly from night to night, is standard — using the album’s title track as his opening number and taking full advantage of his stage set to make a grand entrance that’s straight out of Queen‘s playbook.

“My high school sweetheart surprised me with tickets to go see Queen — I think I was 17, and I think in the 13th row. There was a place [in the set] — this is funny — where Brian May, the guitar player, comes out, fans start blowing with the long hair, and this piece of light rig comes down … and he’s playing, the light rig’s dying, the crowd’s going crazy,” Brooks told The Boot and other media members at a press conference prior to his show. “Watch the opening number tonight. That’s where it’s from, something from Queen. Those influences never go away.”

But from there, the hits came fast and furious, “Papa Loved Mama,” “2 Pina Coladas” and “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)” among them. Brooks was energetic (to say the least) during his entire set, but he really cut loose during “Ain’t Goin’ Down,” splashing water around the stage and throwing the bottles into the crowd, climbing on the drum riser’s circular case and stealing one of the camera crew’s cameras to have a little fun with the crowd. Brooks’ stage is open in the back, which ensures that the fans seated behind the stage have a good view, and Brooks made sure to show plenty of love to everyone, working all angles of the stage throughout the night.

An acoustic version of “Unanswered Prayers,” “That Summer” and “The Thunder Rolls,” as well as “People Loving People,” with its lyrics flashing across the video screens to encourage fans to sing as loudly on the new tune as on the old stuff, all had their turn before Yearwood joined her husband for “In Another’s Eyes” and took her spin on stage. Her set included the new song “PrizeFighter,” as well as a “kiss cam”-accompanied version of “She’s in Love With the Boy.” On this particular night, the cameras trained themselves on a couple of Brooks and Yearwood look-a-likes — who had done a truly impressive job with their costumes — much to the crowd’s delight.

Brooks closed the show with a one-two punch of “Friends in Low Places” and “The Dance,” followed by a first encore of “The Fever,” but he really made the most of the second encore. After spotting signs in the crowd, Brooks performed a shortened, acoustic version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” for a woman whose sister had passed away, as well as “Mom,” which he dedicated to the couple who was nine months pregnant.

“Am I confused, or is this the one you’re naming Garth?” he joked. “Garth, Garthlene, whatever.”

Brooks continues his World Tour with five more shows in Buffalo this weekend. Dates are currently scheduled in Colorado, California and Oregon; a complete, updated list of shows can be found here.

You Think You Know Garth Brooks?

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