Garth Brooks played his first arena show since 2008 last night (Thursday, December 16) at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena, hitting the stage with his band of friends and fellow musicians, many of whom have been with him since the beginning of his career. The singer kept a smile on his face throughout the nearly two-hour show, obviously loving being back onstage in the arena setting.

The singer made a grand entrance with his hit 'Rodeo,' acknowledging the crowd's tremendous reception by saying, "Hello Nashville. On behalf of the band and everyone involved, we thank you for letting us come home to play our music. Tonight is not about tears; this is about laughter and having fun, so let's raise some hell!"

After rocking out to 'Papa Loved Mama,' country music's best-selling artist declared, "I have missed you guys so much." He went on to tell the sold-out crowd of 17,000 fans, "I'll tell you, you guys have done your job [buying tickets to the shows]. Now it's our turn to do ours."

Ticket buyers who will travel to Nashville over the next six days will do so from all across the U.S. and Canada to see the series of nine shows that will benefit victims of the floods that devastated Nashville and middle Tennessee last May. Many have bought tickets to multiple shows; some have purchased ducats for every performance.

"People have been asking me what the shows will be like," Garth told the crowd. "When you're my age, all we have is the old stuff. I like the cowboy songs and this is one of my favorites." He then launched into 'Beaches of Cheyenne."

The crowd responded to every word and note that Garth sang, cheering and applauding as he went through hit after hit from his 20-plus year career. In turn, the singer showed his appreciation his fans, reminding them what he told CNN's Larry King a few days ago when he guested on his television show.

"Larry asked me the difference between my country fans and fans of other music and I told him, 'Our fans don't just know a chorus or two from our songs, they know every word to every song!' The audience proved Garth right over and over again as they sang along to his tunes. He often stopped singing and listened to his words being sung back to him, with a smile on his face that plainly said he was having the time of his life. From 'Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House' to 'The Dance,' Garth proved again and again why he became one of the best-selling artists in the history of recorded music.

"This was a major pop hit," the singer said when introducing 'Shameless.' "The first time I heard it I wondered how it would sound as a country song."

Before singing 'Unanswered Prayers,' Garth told fans, "I don't mean this as a smart-ass [comment] but I want to tell you, you don't realize how many miles I traveled to hear you sing. So show me what you can do." The audience did not disappoint as they sang along, with the singer assuring them, "This is great, this is what I remember." During his performance of 'We Shall Be Free,' monitors showed images of volunteers helping victims of the Nashville flood.

"When we announced these concerts, I gave a call-out for you to come out and buy tickets, and you responded above and beyond. That's how you've been my whole career, and when this song got eaten up right out of the box, you guys responded to it, also." Garth then performed a moving version of 'The Thunder Rolls.'

At a press conference earlier in the day Garth said that the folks who would be at the first concert of the series would be family, but he also mentioned one of his musical heroes, Steve Wariner. True to his word. Steve showed up to pick a few licks and sing a few songs with him. "This guy is one of the best guys in this business, and I grew up on his music," Garth said by way of introducing Steve. Turning to the performer he said, "I love you and I hate you. I love you because you are my buddy, and I hate you because you look the same as you did in the 1980s when I first heard your music." The two performed 'Longneck Bottle,' 'Some Fools Never Learn' and 'Calling Baton Rouge.'

A little further into the concert, Garth asked, 'You guys aren't getting tired, are you?" Getting a rousing "No" response, he paused and quipped, "Well I'll lie to you and tell you that I'm not worn out either!"

Another special guest soon graced the stage, as Trisha Yearwood came out to sing 'In Another's Eyes' with her husband. "Good evening, Nashville," she greeted the crowd, then turned to Garth and said, "Nice party!"

"I wish I could take credit for it," the singer answered, then continued, "I love you and I love our life at home but we've got to get us one of these," indicating the arena and its audience.

"Our girls just love this song," Garth said, introducing Trisha's hit 'She's In Love With the Boy.' The two then sang Garth's No. 1 hit, 'More Than A Memory.'

"I've recorded around 100 songs, and Trisha has sang on about 70 of them," Garth said. "That shows that Garth music is a combination of the efforts of all those who contribute to what I do." Garth introduced the musicians and singers who were onstage with him throughout the evening, including opening act and backup singer Karyn Rochelle and singer/songwriter Stephanie Davis, who had come in from her home state of Montana to join him on the show.

Garth finished out his first show with 'Friends in Low Places' and 'The Dance.' The audience called for "one more song" after he left the stage, and he came back to perform 'Ain't Goin' Down 'Til the Sun Comes Up.'

"In a press conference earlier today, I was asked what I expected of the concert tonight and I said I expected what I remembered from my previous concerts," Garth said. He looked out over the audience and continued, "It has been double. God bless you Nashville, and thank you."

Time allowed for only one encore, as the arena had to be cleared and another audience seated for the second show. There will be one show tonight, before Garth takes a break on Saturday for the Predators hockey game. Concerts resume on Sunday, with one show each that evening and Monday. Garth will do two concerts each on Tuesday and Wednesday night.