Brooks had never performed a full set at the Ryman until this show, which served as a launching pad for his SiriusXM station, known as The Garth Channel. The show was streamed live on the new channel. At a press conference earlier in the day, he explained his programming philosophy by indicating that if he liked someone’s music, he’d play it, regardless of genre.
But for his opening number, Brooks and his guitar relied solely on the classics, mashing up a medley of songs and artists that inspired him. This ranged from Cal Smith’s “Country Bumpkin” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” to George Strait’s “Amarillo By Morning” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” as well as Randy Travis’ “I Told You So” and Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes.”
But the place went berserk when the curtain lifted to reveal his band and a simple set with no enormous screens. Suddenly the opening lines of “Friends in Low Places” resonated through the rows of wooden pews. From there it became one big sing-along: “Rodeo,” “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House,” “The River,” and so on. The live renditions were punctuated with fist pumps and teary eyes from the audience as well as the performer.
Brooks’ undeniable charisma was on full display all night long. After “Unanswered Prayers,” he shaped his thumbs and index fingers into the shape of a heart, a la Taylor Swift. After delivering “That Summer,” he exclaimed, “I’ve never been here before but they’re gonna have to get rid of me now!” When the rumble of “The Thunder Rolls” arrived, the singing along resumed at full volume.
Of course, it’s always refreshing to hear Yearwood sing and she graced the set list for a duet of “In Another’s Eyes” as well as a lovely rendition of “Walkaway Joe” accompanied only by Brooks on guitar. Indicating that they are in the midst of recording a duets album, they unveiled a satisfying new duet, “Whiskey to Wine,” about former lovers who have mellowed out with new partners. Brooks mentioned that the new album will be “the most Garth thing” he’s ever done.
Crowd-pleasers like “Papa Loved Mama” and “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” along with a band introduction, set up the big broadcast finale of “The Dance.” Brooks quietly introduced it by saying, “I hope you remember it,” and naturally, everyone sang along.
When the main program ended, only a smattering of people left. After a few minutes, Brooks returned for a handful of hits and rarely-heard songs, ranging from the enduring “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” and “Every Time That It Rains,” to “In Lonesome Dove” to “Longneck Bottle.” On “Shameless,” he looked near ecstasy, an expression that carried through “Standing Outside the Fire,” and likely well past the time he exited the hallowed stage.
Brooks will rekindle his world tour on Friday (Sept. 16) in Anaheim, California.
Craig Shelburne • September 6, 2016
Beathard accompanied himself on guitar for performances of “Momma and Jesus,” “20-10 Tennessee,” “I’ll Take on the World With You,” “Fight Like Hell,” and his debut single, “Rock On.” All five songs, plus “Home Sweet USA,” will be featured on the EP. Beathard co-wrote every track on the project.
Following the performance, Beathard accepted his first MusicRow No. 1 Challenge Coin for “Rock On,” which is this week’s No. 1 song on MusicRow’s CountryBreakout Chart. Since 2014, every artist and songwriter to earn a No. 1 single on that chart receives a coin.