Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

An afternoon with Garth Brooks has all the hallmarks of a late night party

The signs are nothing new at a Garth Brooks concert. It’s a regular thing he does called “housekeeping.” Fans hold up signs requesting their favorite songs. If Brooks is in the mood, he obliges.

At Spokane Arena on Sunday afternoon, fans held up signs requesting “Ireland,” and the Bob Dylan cover, “Make You Feel My Love.” There was a request for “It’s Midnight Cinderella,” a song Brooks said he never plays because it’s “so nasty.” At this particular show, he agreed to sing “the clean part.”

The humor of the moment turned somber as Brooks spotted a sign in the stands: “Please sing ‘Mom’ for my son Taylor.”

“Mom,” Brooks said, is by far his most requested song. But he took a minute to talk with the woman holding the sign, asking her what her name was – “Tammy” – and where Taylor is now. The answer was heartbreaking: Not with us anymore. If he were, he’d be 26.

And so Brooks sang the beloved song for a fan who had lost her son, but not before saying this: “Tammy, I can tell you he is here today.”

It was a brief moment of sadness in an otherwise raucous show – a show that proved matinees can be a lot of fun.

Two times over the weekend, Brooks took to the stage at the Arena for a double-header, performing afternoon and evening shows for throngs of the faithful. Inside the darkened hall by 3:15 Sunday afternoon, it was easy to forget the sun was still up outside.

It was just what Kim Thompson was expecting. The Spokane woman had been to Saturday’s afternoon show, and returned Sunday with her 8-year-old daughter, Bella, in tow for her first-ever concert.

“It felt just as big and just as dark in there as it would at night,” she said of Saturday’s show.

For D.J. and Collette Edwards, going to a show in the afternoon seemed a bit strange. The former Spokane residents, who now call Las Vegas home, jumped at the chance to see the country legend in their hometown, even if it was midday.

“When you want to see anyone of his stature, you go with what you can get,” D.J. Edwards said. The upside? “You know when you leave you can still party after the show is over.”

Judging from the lines for beer and the number of happy people in the Dry Fly bar at the Arena, nothing was really stopping people from partying before the show, too.

That free-wheeling, day-is-night vibe continued throughout the concert. Fans lit up the Arena with their cellphones for “The River,” giving the effect of starlight.

“If you would have told me this was the middle of a day and it was a Sunday,” Brooks said at one point, “I would call you a liar.”

Brooks sweat through his shirt with an energetic first set that included “Rodeo,” “Ain’t Going Down Until the Sun Comes Up,” “Two Pina Coladas” and the crowd favorite “The Thunder Rolls.”

By the time Trisha Yearwood rose up from below the stage to sing the duet “In Another’s Eyes,” Brooks was probably ready for a break. The crowd wasn’t.

“It doesn’t feel like a Sunday afternoon,” said the Grammy-winning country star, decked out in jeans and a KISS T-shirt – evidence that she’d gotten the memo about Spokane’s fondness for country and classic rock. She charmed the crowd with songs like “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)” and “Georgia Rain,” and shared a smooch with husband Brooks at the end of her first big hit, “She’s in Love with a Boy.”

Brooks launched into a blistering trifecta of “Shameless,” “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and “Friends in Low Places.” His shirt had dried off during his break, but it didn’t stay that way. By the time he worked his way through a cover of Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” and the night’s finale, “Standing Outside the Fire,” it was drenched.

And as the happy fans filed out, they whooped and hollered, and told friends and strangers alike waiting in line for the night show that they were in for something good.