So far, Spokane has been a rousing success for country superstar Garth Brooks.
In a news conference at the Spokane Arena on Friday with his wife, singer Trisha Yearwood, Brooks said Thursday night’s opener of his seven-night run was “fantastic.”
“ ‘Fishing in the Dark,’ it was just stupid fun last night,” said the Oklahoma native, who has sold well over 160 million albums, making him the best-selling solo artist in the United States. “Just a good, good crowd. A lot of energy. … If every night goes like last night, seven shows ain’t going to be enough here. … That was a blast. And I can’t imagine what happens now when you have the weapon of the blonde coming out here.”
Yearwood missed Thursday’s show, and will miss Tuesday as well, because of production of her Food Network show, “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen.”
“When tickets went on sale here, we got totally caught off guard,” Brooks said. “Miss Yearwood has done this for three years with the tour and her cooking show, and never missed a date,” he said, “and here she’s missing the opener and the closer because things just went, fantastic, I guess is the word.”
Yearwood chimed in, “Who does a show on a Tuesday? This guy.”
Despite Yearwood’s absence, Thursday marked something special for Brooks. “We did get to do one lifetime thing last night. We got to share the Entertainer of the Year trophy with the opening crowd,” he said. On Wednesday, he won Entertainer of the Year from the Country Music Association – for the sixth time. “It was a beautiful picture, a beautiful moment for me, and it’ll be one that will live forever for me and it will only happen in Spokane.”
The Garth Brooks World Tour launched in 2014 and was supposed to last a year and a half. Yearwood joked that at first she wasn’t sure she would survive it, but after a while, they found their rhythm.
“This is not like any tour I’ve ever been on. I don’t think it’s like any tour anyone’s ever been on,” she said. “So I think now that we’re almost to the end of this piece of the tour, the North American leg, now I got it. Now I’m like, ‘We can just keep doing this if you want to.’ Because it’s fun, and it’s like a family.”
From Spokane, they head to Newark, New Jersey, in early December, and bring the three-year tour to an end in Nashville in mid-December.
Brooks said there is pressure to doing a long run in a town. A show like Thursday, especially when you’re looking at seven shows, you really want to give all you got. “At the same time,” he said, “you want to do that with shows three and four, shows six and seven.”
He later added, “We really needed a night like last night to realize that this isn’t going to be seven shows. This is going to be seven parties. Let’s just all relax and have fun.”
The Spokane shows, as with the shows in the Tacoma Dome last weekend, are being recorded for an upcoming live album, Brooks said. “To be honest, I’m not sure which is going to sound like a bigger building,” he added. “Because sometimes when it’s all compact, it sounds twice as large as a bigger arena.”
Brooks noted that like the Northeast, the Pacific Northwest has a reputation as not having a strong country music fan base. He knows that’s far from the truth.
“We went into Tacoma, and I swear to you, man, same way last night, you just strap your helmet on and you try to survive it, and that’s all you can do,” he said. “Because it’s a place that just likes to get loud and have fun. … Here, they’re ready to go all the time. I find that to be a joy.”
Beyond the tour, Yearwood has a lot on her plate. Her cooking show launched in 2012, and she’s written cookbooks and developed a food line for Williams Sonoma and housewares and home accessories available at retailers like Amazon and J.C. Penney. The fact that she and Brooks are on tour together makes it manageable. It was a conscious decision, she said, that the two of them would be together as much as possible.
“That’s the first thing. Then when we’re home, we’re home,” she said, doing “things that you need to do to make sure you’re spending time together.”
Three years on tour has certainly had an effect on her life, and on her career. “I’m more low-key as a performer than Garth. I wouldn’t say I’m the multifaceted entertainer that he is. But on this tour, I’ve had to learn how to be more of a performer. I will not say I’m the best entertainer up here at all, but I probably would say I’m the most improved player because I’ve learned to be bigger on stage. I’ve really enjoyed myself, and I think it will help me when I go back to playing theaters.”
Brooks, of course, is legendary for his live shows; the success of this current tour is testament to that. That’s likely why his decision to lip sync “Ask Me How I Know” on the CMA Awards broadcast Wednesday caused the uproar that it did. Brooks has acknowledged his voice wasn’t up to it, and it was a “game-day decision” that he would easily make again. His obligation, he said, is not to the viewers watching an awards show on television, it’s to the people who are paying money to hear him play live.
“I belong to these people,” he said, gesturing toward the Arena hall. “So if I don’t have a voice for them? I care more about that than anything.”